With great pleasure and joy, we announce that our long time and good friends Brenda and Larry Levitan became grandparents for the very first time when their children Matthew and Ariel gave birth late last week (too late for the shout-out) to a healthy 9lb+ baby girl. Welcome to the world Alexa Rose (Aliza Rina). A special mazel tov to Phyllis and Jonathan Wagner of New York City, Ariel’s parents, occasional readers of the Oisvorfer Toirah and also first time grandparents. May all the grandparents spoil Alexa Rose silly. And special mazel tov wishes to the many delighted great-grandparents including (not in any order): Mrs. Sonja Mostel, Lynn and Morton Levitan, Molly and Rabbi Isaac Furman and Rosalind and David Wagner.
And since it’s a slow mazel tov week, let’s also wish a very happy birthday to the Oisvorfer Ruv himself who is celebrating his 60th birthday today, January 1st mamish. Birthday wishes and gifts accepted until the 15th of the month, or later. And to Anne G, thank you.
Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Believe it or not, it’s our 5th time around Parshas Vayichi and Sefer Bereishis. Last week we started our year-end review by chazering again various stimulating medroshim on Vayigash. It was mamish well received with many great lol comments, though one reader over in London thought it was a bit raunchy. Seemingly she read it anyway, at least once. Is the Oisvorfer raunchy or, is she suggesting that the Targum Yoinoson, the Kli Yokor and others who penned these thought provoking medroshim and whom the Oisvorfer quotes, verbatim at times, were raunchy? The Oisvorfer merely learns the heylige Torah and related medroshim and then repeats, what other very respectable people had to say. Get with the program!
Let’s set the stage for parshas Vayichi which brings down the curtain on the entire Sefer Bereishis. Last week, after 22 long years, and after Yoisef revealed himself to his brothers, if you chap, Yoisef also reunited with his father and siblings. Yaakov uprooted his entire family of approximately 70, depending on which medrish is correct, and moved to Mitzrayim. Questions as to why Yoisef didn’t contact his father or try to, upon becoming viceroy, were previously asked and answered. We still don’t know. The bottom line: he didn’t, and the rest is history. It was also the beginning of the fulfillment of the RBSO’s promise to zeyda Avrohom that his children would become enslaved. Remember: the RBSO had a master plan. Shoin. It’s 17 years later, welcome to our parshas Vayichi.
This week we will be saying good-bye to the entire Yaakov Ovenu mishpocho (family) including Yoisef, our favorite Toirah character and his brothers. Officially, we will only bid farewell to Yaakov and Yoisef. Yaakov’s passing and burial, though recorded in great detail and witnessed by his family and many Egyptian officers, might not have happened. It didn’t? How could that be? Says at least one medrish and the heylige Gemora (Taanis 5b) that Yaakov never died! Is he alive or dead? Ver veyst. No one seems to argue that Yoisef did die.
Another medrish will tell us that Eisav, whose passing is not recorded in our parsha or any other, and from whom we have not heard since his father’s levaya a number of weeks back, will also die this week. The medrish will also tell us that just prior to death he did tshuva (repented) and his head, neatly chopped off by Chushim one of Yaakov’s eyniklich (grandchildren) rolled into and is buried in the Meoras Hamachpela alongside our other forefathers and foremothers. Seemingly, repentance can still be done in the last seconds of life and that is of course good news, maybe givaldig. Sounds plausible.
By the time we begin Sefer Shmois – next week mamish –Yaakov’s entire family and generation will all be gone. The Yiddin will already have been enslaved to Paroy, minuvil that he was, and we will be reading of their great suffering, the four expressions of redemption which incidentally was a boon to the wine business, Moishe’s birth and so much more. Ober this week, at least in the beginning of the parsha, Yaakov is still alive but not for too much longer.
Lommer lernin a bissel parsha (let’s learn some parsha). Yaakov feels the malach hamoves (angel of death) hovering. One medrish will tell us that prior to Yaakov, people just died when their time was up. Yaakov was seemingly the first to ask for some time to get his affairs in order. His wish was granted; illness was introduced. Is this a better way to go, ver veyst? He taka took ill as the heylige Toirah says mamish bifeyrush (explicitly), had some time, recognized his days were short, called for a family gathering and took the opportunity to speak to each of his children –some harshly- as individuals before bentching (blessing) them all. We have previously covered these conversations in depth and of course you can find them in archives here www.oisvorfer.comober it’s worth noting that even on his deathbed and in the days before, Yaakov, like his father Yitzchok and zedya Avrohom, played favorites. Playing favorites is a recurring theme throughout Sefer Bereishis. More on that below.
T’is still the season for year-end reviews; let’s taka look back at some the families we met in Sefer Bereishis. One thing is zicher. After a shtikel chazoro of each family’s dynamics, your own dysfunctional family, the very one you’ve been blaming for all your woes, might seem perfectly normal. After all, did your brother, no matter how jealous he was over a korban (sacrifice) or a colored sweater, ever plot to kill you and instead sell you into slavery? Did he rape or sodomize your father? Did your sisters ever rape your father or marry your brother? Shoin: case closed. It does appear from the get-go mamish that brothers getting along with their siblings and even with their own parents, was at times challenging. Moreover, it appears that parents favoring one child over another also dates back to early times; seemingly each family we met was guilty. Azoy gey der velt. And guess what? The RBSO also took a liking to certain individuals and disliked others. The heylige Toirah did not hide these relationships; farkert (quite the opposite), it highlighted them. Who says all kids need to be treated equally? Maybe we need to learn from them, ver veyst? And as we bid adieu to Sefer Bereishis, and review the various parshas, storylines, and interesting people we met along the way, one theme is clear. There were taka always favorites and those that were not as popular. Kimat each family we met along our journey had at least one child who was favored or accepted and one who was not.
Let’s re-visit the families of Bereishis where there were very clear winners and losers. Way back when, we met Odom and Chava who should have stuck to cake and cookies instead of farkakta fruit. No- one gets thrown out of Gan Eden or kimat anywhere else for having a piece-even many pieces- of cake, or a cookie. Cake is good! Desiring fruit over cake also did the Nochosh (the snake) in. Says the medrish: the snake not only wanted to feed Chava some forbidden fruit, but seemingly also chapped some of hers; his legs were chopped off. Legs notwithstanding (pun intended), the ground hugging snake will make several more appearances in the heylige Toirah; in almost every instance, trouble will not be far behind. And the take-away? The snake’s desire for forbidden fruit was never abated; left to its own devices, the snake is many times out of control, if you chap. That parsha also featured the insanely jealous Kayin, who committed the first act of murder. Shoin, one spacious mamish uninhabited world, two brothers and no room for the two of them to co-exist peacefully. Shreklich (OMG)!
A week later and not long after the mabul (flood) which wiped away humanity, Noiach, who had 3 sons, became inebriated, fell asleep and was somehow uncovered. In plain English: his blanket fell off and he was naked underneath. Ober his own son and grandson (Chom and K’nan), reacted less than admirably and instead of showing proper derech eretz by covering him properly, and depending of course on which of the many medroshim talk to you, either sodomized, raped or castrated (or both) their own father and zeyda. Such nachas. Shreklich (OMG)! Miraculously, Noiach survived the ordeal and cursed K’nan’s family forever. It’s zicher not nice to tamper with another’s privates; even touching if not yours- if you chap- is verboten. We next met Yishmoel who was nebech thrown out of his father’s house, not once but twice. So was his mother Hogor though she would, according to the medrish, make a triumphant return and marry Avrohom following Soro’s passing. She also gave him 6 more kinderlach though none as remarkable as the one son, Yitzchok, Soro gave Avrohom. What Yishmoel did wrong, if anything (back then), we are not told. In fact the RBSO instructed His malach (angel) to save Yishmoel because he was taka but an innocent lad. The RBSO had Yishmoel’s back: he survived and became a big nation. Nonetheless, Yishmoel was the rejected son and did not receive any special blessings from his father Avrohom. In that parsha we also met the Loits, Mr. and Mrs. and their fabulous daughters each of whom went on to rape their own father. Is this a medrish? No! It’s the text mamish! Each got pregnant ober the medrish instead of lambasting this act of rape mamish, gave them a pass and told us that their sex act was not for fornication purposes but was instead ‘leshaim shomayim’ (for a heavenly purpose); they had good intentions to repopulate the world. WARNING: do not use the leshaim shomayim excuse when chapped by the eishes chayil. Loit, on the other hand, guilty only of having 2 vilde chayis for daughters, gets vilified and destroyed by the medrish. After being plied with wine and savagely raped by his own daughters, he gets raked over by the medrish. Why, ver veyst? His wife didn’t fare too well either. The good news: Loit, seemingly didn’t have any favorites; he enjoyed them both.
We next met Yitzchok who at 37 years of age willingly accompanied his father to the akeydo where he was to be sacrificed to the RBSO. We also met his 3 year old rebitzen Rivka. Together they, after some 20 years of childless marriage, had twin boys by the names of Yaakov and Eisav. Though the heylige Toirah doesn’t mention one bad word about Eisav other than he liked to hunt and hey, aren’t many for you hunters, if you chap, the medrish will paint a different picture. According to them, Eisav was a very bad man who stole, raped and pillaged and more, all in one day. His younger brother Yaakov who is described as an ‘ish tam yoishev oiholim’ – a simple man who enjoyed the tents- seemingly meaning that he liked learning in yeshiva and picked up some early life skills in cheder. He went on, with his mother’s assistance and under her specifics instructions to steal the birthright brochis from his older brother. He also duped his elderly father. Earlier and seemingly on his own Yaakov had Eisav, under duress at the time, enter into an agreement to sell his birthright. Of course this didn’t sit well with Eisav who plotted revenge for many years; can you blame him? The heylige Toirah specifically told us that Rivka favored Yaakov while Yitzchok favored Eisav.
And a few weeks back, after graduating finally from the world famous but maybe mythical Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Yaakov already in his 70’s, finally married not one but four wives. Shoin to ensure stability at home and some familiarity, he married 2 full and two half sisters all from one father-in-law. Is that a formula for success and stability? Between his 4 wives he fathered 12 sons, at least one daughter and according to the medrish, maybe another 11 or 12 girls. He had more daughters? The medrish will tell us that each son had a twin sister. What happened to them? We are not told and if they did live, they zicher died before the family migrated to Mitzrayim. Shoin. They were not counted among the 70 or so who migrated.
Ober did Yaakov love all his wives or his children equally? Not!! Yaakov loved Rochel and the heylige Toirah described his love for her vividly. Leah, not so much. And the others, barely a mention. He also favored his son Yoisef whom Rochel begot, above all his other children. He sewed him a special tunic, similar to the one we see in the movies and every production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Why, ver veyst? In this case, 10 brothers felt slighted and rejected and as we know, no good came from this public display of affection to one child. And taka ad-hayoim-hazeh (until today), an overabundance of PDA (public display of affection), usually leads to divorce and worse.
We then learned that Dina was taken and raped kidarko and sheloi kidarko (look it up, you chazir) by Shechem. So says Rashi and who knew better? The medrish will tell us that Dina was then rejected by Yaakov, kicked out of the house, wandered about until she ended up in Mitzrayim where Mr. and Mrs. Potiphar, benevolent people that they were, took her in and raised her. Years later, she would end up marrying Yoisef, her half- brother. Her rape brought out the swords of Shimon and Levi who used them to kill Shechem and all male inhabitants of the city. Yaakov, on his deathbed mamish and in this week’s parsha, will recall the event and cursed their violent tempers. He vowed to split them up; the Shimon and Levi duo no longer.
Let’s not forget what the holy brothers did to Yoisef. How they sat and plotted to kill him and then sold him into slavery and lied to their grieving father for 22 years. And how Yehudah who was demoted from a leadership role among the brothers, was able to rise to the occasion, if you chap, and had an unwitting roadside relationship with a prostitute look alike that turned out to be this own former daughter-in-law. What else can go wrong in the Yaakov Oveenu mishpocho? Was all this over favoritism and jealousy? Ober let’s avada remember that the RBSO had a master plan; can we fault any of our characters? Each was chosen to do his or her part and each was part of the master plan.
Sefer Bereishis also had some clear winners and they include Lemach, a character we came across in parshas Bereishis over at chamishi -check it out. The heylige Toirah made a point of telling us that Lemach had 2 wives and Rashi made a bigger point by teaching us that Lemach had one wife for sexual favors and had children with the other. Whatever happened to that model for a successful marriage? We also include Noiach, a man who charmed the RBSO before he took to the bottle, and his family who were all selected to survive the great flood and rebuild society. Why Noiach? It’s quite simple: the RBSO liked and selected him. The RBSO had favorites: he liked Noiach as the heylige Toirah tells us “V’Noiach Motzo chein B’eyney Hashem” and Noiach found favor in the RBSO’s eyes. The RBSO just liked him. The RBSO also disliked a few and though a shtikel out of order, now would be a good time to mention as does the heylige Toirah that He especially abhorred Eyr and Oinon, two of Yehudah’s children. Says the heylige Toirah azoy: “Now Eyr, Yehudah’s firstborn, was evil in the eyes of the RBSO and the RBSO put him to death.” And about Oinon, it says azoy: Now what he (Oinon) did was evil in the eyes of the RBSO and He put him to death.” Seemingly, zera- livatolo (spilling of seed) is bad but impregnating your former daughter-in-law in a roadside incident is good, very. It brings about kingship forever and ever. Both Yaakov and the RBSO liked Yehudah. He came back. Shoin, who are we to judge? Do you want the RBSO judging you?
Avrohom Oveenu was also a selected winner; he taka deserved such recognition. He was, we are taught, the first monotheist, the first to have a bris, albeit at 99 years of age and the first to get a 10 out of 10 on the RBSO’s faith test. Though crucified by the medrish, it appears that the RBSO also liked Loit; he and his daughters were selected to survive the debacle in Sedoim. Maybe the girls’ rape of their own father was taka all bashert and heavenly decreed. So it would appear.
Our forefather Yitzchok was zicher selected by the RBSO. First as a sacrificial lamb and then to be the 2nd of our esteemed forefathers. The RBSO loved Yitzchok. And let’s not forget that at age 40, he still chapped a 3 year old beauty. Yaakov, his mother’s favorite, was selected to become the father of the Jewish people. Even after being fooled into marrying the wrong girl, he didn’t give up. He pursued and eventually married his true love Rochel. Our second biggest winner, though it could easily be argued that he’s really the biggest winner of all, is Yehudah who, though toppled from his leadership position following his roadside incident with Tamar, rose yet again, and was selected for royalty and kingship forever. The big winner seems to be Yoisef who had to overcome many trials and tribulations including a plot to kill him, slavery, seduction, false charges of rape and a 12 year stint in the big-house. Ober the RBSO was never far behind; He kept a close eye on him and helped Yoisef navigate out of each debacle. With siyata dishmayo (help from above), Yoisef rose to become the Viceroy of Egypt.
In the end and in this week’s parsha, Yaakov will bestow upon Yoisef the gift of the firstborn: a double portion. Yoisef’s two boys Ephraim and Menashe, after a last display of favoritism during which Yaakov, like his zeyda Avrohom and his father Yitzchok before him, favored Ephraim over Menashe though Menashe was the first born. It’s seemingly part of our mesorah (tradition). In this case however, though favoritism was on display with the last minute sleight of hand trick, each was to become counted among the holy tribes and each received a portion of the land. None were rejected. Maybe that’s the model for success. Moreover, it’s with Yoisef’s two boys, that we traditionally bentch our children with each Friday night. Not too shabby.
A gittin shabbis-