Imaginations run wild…
Shoin, last night while chasiddim were marking nittel nacht (Nittel night), the Oisvorfer was hurriving (plugging away) over parshas Vayigash trying to find topics not previously reviewed. This was not an easy task on the 5th go around of this, the most dramatic parsha in all of sefer Bereishis. What the hec is nittel nacht? Nu, if you were raised in Brooklyn or had epes some chasiddishe background you would of course know that last night, erev Christmas, is also known as nittel nacht. Nittel nacht was of course immensely popular because when we were kids, learning Toirah on this night was strictly forbidden. Is there mamish a time when Toirah learning is verboten? Seemingly there is or was, at least according to some. Soon we’ll provide more details ober ershtens…..
Tis the season when radio stations, magazines, newspapers and others review and count down the most popular stories of the year, the greatest hits of the year, of the last few years, and of the decades. And this week, the Oisvorfer will taka review, though not count down, some of his favorite medroshim found on this week’s electrifying and emotional parsha which feature not one, but two family reunions. When done, you’ll zicher be scratching your heads and be left wondering azoy: did they really write that stuff? Yes they did! And some of it can be found where? In the chumish mamish? Yes! How they got away with writing these medroshim, ver veyst. One thing is zicher: Were you, lemoshol (by way of example) to suggest that Yoisef took out his mila (penis) to prove his identity or that Yoisef’s sperm slipped through his fingers – as we will soon read- you would, in today’s times, be immediately placed into cherim (excommunicated).
No one needs to be reminded of the great and emotional reunion after 22 years, between Yoisef and his brothers. We have previously discussed at length the great confrontation between the reenergized Yehuda and Yoisef and the entire dramatic scene where Yoisef cleared the room and revealed himself. We also discussed the famous Rashi, quoting the medrish (Tanchuma) which tells us that Yoisef also revealed himself physically, mamish, by showing his brothers his royal mila (penis) in order to convince them – by seeing his circumcision- that he was taka Jewish and not an Egyptian. The heylige Toirah tells us that they backed off; who can blame them? Let’s read the text, some Rashi and discuss our first favorite medrish or medroshim on this topic.
|4. Then Yoisef said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me,” and they drew closer. And he said, “I am your brother Yoisef, whom you sold into Egypt.||ד. וַיֹּאמֶר יוֹסֵף אֶל אֶחָיו גְּשׁוּ נָא אֵלַי וַיִּגָּשׁוּ וַיֹּאמֶר אֲנִי יוֹסֵף אֲחִיכֶם אֲשֶׁר מְכַרְתֶּם אֹתִי מִצְרָיְמָה:|
|Please come closer: He saw them drawing backwards. He said,“Now my brothers are embarrassed” (Tanchuma). He called them tenderly and pleadingly and showed them that he was circumcised.||גשו נא אלי: ראה אותם נסוגים לאחוריהם, אמר עכשיו אחי נכלמים, קרא להם בלשון רכה ותחנונים, והראה להם שהוא מהול:|
Upon hearing that the Viceroy is none other than their own brother, they went into shock and withdrew causing Yoisef to say “…..come closer…” and again he exclaimed, “I am your brother.” But they still didn’t believe him, perhaps they didn’t want to. What did Yoisef do? To prove who he was, he did some more revealing. In this iteration, he showed them his bris (royal junk). He did what? He showed them his bris mila? Indeed he did. Was this a game they played when they were younger? Were they the original inspiration for the ‘show and tell’ or ‘show and don’t tell’ game? Nu, that’s what we call a revelation! Can you just picture the scene? One might have expected Yoisef to show them his office, maybe his palatial estate or maybe even his wife and kids. What’s pshat here? Twenty two years have gone by and the first thing Yoisef did was to show off his mila? Is that why Yehuda, according to another medrish, accused Yoisef of being a homosexual (just like Paroy)? Ver veyst.
Ober was showing off the royal junk proof positive that Yoisef was who he said he was? Didn’t Rashi previously tell us that Yoisef, as a condition of selling food to Paroys’ subjects during the famine, made the Mitzrim circumcise themselves? He did! And if so, wasn’t his mila just like the others? What’s taka pshat? How could showing his to them prove that he was taka different than they? And guess what? Others had the zelba kasha (same question). Ober says the Chizkuni so gishmak azoy: it’s taka emes that the Mitzrim were circumcised ober they did it only to avoid starvation from the famine. Ober Yoisef was in power and also wealthy; zicher he didn’t need to undergo such drastic measures and the only reason he would circumcise himself would be if he was taka one of them (his brothers). Moreover, though taka emes, that the Egyptians were also in fact circumcised, the brothers were not aware of this (now tiny) factoid. Accordingly, Yoisef flashing his royalty, if you chap, would have caused the brothers to believe that he was taka their brother. Sly fox that he was!
Ober listen to this bombshell -appearing for the first time in the Oisvorfer’s review- from no lesser a Toirah giant than the Kli Yokor who suggested this pshat: one who has relations with an Aramis (a certain type of gentile), his Orla gets stretched (“Moshcha Orloso”). Who is the Kli Yokor and he says what? Just so you know, the Kli Yokor who can be found quoted regularly in the big Chumish known as the ‘Mikrois Gedoilis. In fact, this week, the Oisvorfer is providing a link; check it out right here: Kli Yakar. And it’s taka emes; our sages suggest in more than one source though likely all based on only one source (that’s likely made up), that one who has relations with a gentile, his bris is affected. Affected how? Shoin, the Kli Yokor just told you how! It seemingly gets stretched out. Seemingly, Yoisef wanted to show the brothers that he is was still the same Tzadik person they knew and sold into slavery and that he did not succumb to sin while in prison or while in Mitzrayim all these years. Shoin, earlier this week, when the Oisviorfer was sharing this pshat, one chaver kept reading the words of the Kli Yokor over and over and wanted to know azoy: did the Kli Yokor mean to say that organ stretching comes about only with an Aramis girl or would the same happen from any hot shiksa? Of course he wasn’t personally concerned; he was mistama wondering about Yoisef and if Mitzri women had the same effect as did Aramis women. Ver Veyst?
Ober wasn’t Yoisef married to Osnas the daughter of Potifera, the Priest of Oin? Indeed he was. And wasn’t Osnas then an Egyptian? And if the Kli Yokor was correct, wouldn’t Yoisef, showing off his bris following relations with Osnas, have had the opposite affect? Wouldn’t the truth have been stretched, if you chap? Wouldn’t they epes suspect from the visual that he might not be their brother? Ober not to worry because another medrish we learned together told us that Osnas was not the real daughter of Potifera. Instead she was mamish a Jewess. Who was she? Shoin, let’s revisit another favorite medrish to be followed by the flying embryos medrish. Let’s start with some text and Rashi. Later in the parsha, Yaakov and his entire family will migrate to Mitzrayim. They are all listed by name.
|10. And the sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, and Zohar, and Saul the son of the Canaanitess.||י. וּבְנֵי שִׁמְעוֹן יְמוּאֵל וְיָמִין וְאֹהַד וְיָכִין וְצֹחַר וְשָׁאוּל בֶּן הַכְּנַעֲנִית:|
|the son of the Canaanitess: The son of Dinah, who had been possessed by a Canaanite. When they killed Shechem, Dinah did not want to leave until Simeon swore to her that he would marry her –||בן הכנענית: בן דינה שנבעלה לכנעני, כשהרגו את שכם לא היתה דינה רוצה לצאת עד שנשבע לה שמעון שישאנה:|
In listing the children of Shimon, the heylige Toirah tells us that the last one mentioned is Shaul Ben Haknanis. Who is that? Not to worry, here comes Rashi with the answer.
Quoting the medrish (B’reishis Rabba) who himself had one wild imagination, Rashi states that Shaul Ben Haknanis was the son of Dina. Dina had a son? Who was the father? Just last week, we learned that Dina, after being raped by Shechem that chazir, had a daughter named Osnas who eventually married Yoisef. Shoin, she was taka Jewish all along; no stretching concerns. She also had a son? Did Shechem double dip, if you chap? Did Dina have twins? How could Shechem be the father when he was long dead? How could Dina have both a boy and a girl? What’s pshat here and what’s up with this Dina?
Moreover, Rashi, quoting the Medrish tells us that Dina refused to leave Shechem’s house. Even after brothers Shimon and Levi killed Shechem and all the males, she refused to leave. Shoin! Seemingly she was embarrassed and who can blame her? She was taka raped and left pregnant. Says the medrish, she wouldn’t leave until her elterer brider (older brother) Shimon said he would marry her. Brother married to his own sister? What’s pshat here? How are we to understand what happened here with this Dina? Ver veyst but seemingly according to this medrish, Dina was worried that having been violated and also with child by Shechem, chazir that he was, no other nice Jewish boy would marry her and she refused to leave his house. How would this look on her shidduch resume? Why she wanted to stay with a dead husband, doss veis ich nisht (this we don’t know) but that’s what the medrish says. Nu- like a good brother does, Shimon married her and they too seemingly lived happily after. Seemingly, they had a baby boy named Shaul Ben Hakinanis who is listed among those who made their way down to Egypt. Gishmak mamish! One cannot make this stuff up, though the medrish seemingly has pretty wild ideas as to what might have taken place. Veyter.
But wait just a minute; how could a brother marry his own sister? Even oisvorf bums like many of you are must be klerring (pondering) the following kasha (question): we recall from learning Parshas Noiach that even a Ben Noiach is not allowed to marry his maternal sister. How then could Shimon marry his shvester (sister) Dina? Not to worry because the medrish has this covered as well with a gevaldige and most amazing scientific miracle that we covered a few years back ober certainly worthy of chazoro (review) this year. Halt kupp (pay attention). Said the Targum Yoinoson Ben Uzeal, clearly a man with an incredible imagination and centuries ahead of his time, azoy: when Leah was pregnant with her 7th child she davened to the RBSO that it should be a girl. At the same time, Rochel was also (finally) pregnant. The RBSO avada loves it when women say tehilim and responded with mamish a neys (miracle) and caused the fetus in Leah to be switched with the fetus in Rochel. And just like that, Rochel gave birth to Yoisef and Leah gave birth to Dina. Since Dina was conceived in Rochel’s womb, one can argue that her mother was really Rochel. In other words: Dina was but a half sister to Shimon from her father. Consequently, she was muttar (permitted) to marry Shimon. You hear this? And you thought that Shimon was committing an aveyro? Chas v’sholim: Sometimes we need to dig deeper to find out that the person we suspect of an aveyro might in fact not be guilty. Moreover, we of course know that Shimon and his brothers were all holy, weren’t they? The medrish has his back!
And that Raboyseyee is why the Toirah is the beste s’choira: the Toirah is the best as is the RBSO. And we must learn all the medroshim to see how they huravid (toiled) over each word in the heylige Toirah in order to understand and fill in the lacunas (holes in the text). Certainly Shimon did his part, if you chap. It’s what the RBSO wants of us: To learn and discuss and imagine. What really happened, ver veyst and as we have said in the past: it’s none of your business! The RBSO selected Dina, according to the medrish, to have Osnas (maybe against her own will), maybe also to have a boy named Shaul and, for Osnas, a nice Jewish girl to marry Yoisef, thus enabling Yoisef to show his brothers that his bris was not stretched, if you chap, as a result of chapping with a shiksa. It all works! And centuries before anyone heard of in-vitro fertilization and before we heard terms which include parturition (a real word) and gestation, there was Targum Yoinoson whose imagination was vild mamish (wild) and he, on matters scientific and zicher on those of a sexual nature, mamish chapped what took place, or could have. Yoinoson was so busy figuring out pshat in the verses, he forgot to get married and died nebech single. Veyter. And if you think this pshat was over the top, wait until you hear what’s coming next.
Shoin, time for one more amazing medrish. Next week, Yaakov will give his favorite son Yoisef some parting brochos (blessings). Let’s pay special attention to Rashi who says something so outlandish, it’s mamish hard to picture. Then again for you oisvorfs, it’s perhaps easier. Let’s see what he says in the shaded box below- read this carefully:
|the one who was separated from his brothers: Heb. נְזִיר אֶחָיו [Onkelos renders:] דַאִחוֹהִי פְּרִישָׁא, who was separated from his brothers, similar to “and they shall separate (וַינָּזְרוּ) from the holy things of the children of Israel” (Lev. 22:2); [and ]“they drew (נָזֹרוּ) backwards” (Isa. 1:4). – [From Sifra Emor 4:1] [Returning to verse 24, Rashi continues:] Our Rabbis, however, interpreted“ But his bow was strongly established” as referring to his (Joseph’s) overcoming his temptation with his master’s wife. He calls it a bow because semen shoots like an arrow. וַיָּפֹזוּ זְרֹעֵי יָדָיו [וַיָּפֹזוּ is equivalent to וַיָפֹצוּ, scattered, that the semen came out from between his fingers.]||נזיר אחיו: פרישא דאחוהי, שנבדל מאחיו, כמו (ויקרא כב ב) וינזרו מקדשי בני ישראל, (ישעיה א ד) נזורו אחור. ואונקלוס תרגם תאות גבעת עולם, לשון תאוה וחמדה, וגבעות לשון (שמואל א’ ב ח) מצוקי ארץ, שחמדתן אמו והזקיקתו לקבלם:|
Stop the presses right now and let’s look at the last 7 lines of Rashi again please. What? Semen came out from between his fingers? What is going on here? Where and how did semen make its way into the parsha and into Rashi? And what’s this bow and arrow talk in the parsha, is it Lag B’oimer? Nu, zorg zich nisht (don’t be worried) and let’s learn pshat. Says the heylige Gemora (Soitah 36B) azoy:
Yoisef was sold as a slave to Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, and although he initially rejected her advances, he eventually gave in and seemingly also went in, if you chap. Say it’s not so please! As he was about to complete the illicit act of relations- shrecklich mamish (OMG) – the image of his father suddenly became fixed in his mind, and he relented. Said Reb Yoichonon azoy: “His strength was firmly founded” –meaning- his Ever (member) was erected. “And gushed out from his hands” – he stuck his hands in the ground, and the semen came out from between his fingernails. He dug his fingernails into the ground in order to control himself, and miraculously, the flow of semen issued from his fingers into the ground instead of issuing into Potiphar’s wife. Shoin, is it a wonder that people all over the world now carry Gemoras wherever they go? Can’t believe what you just read? Let’s learn it noch a mol (one more time). Efsher (maybe) Yoisef did sin in thought, and drops of his semen issued from between his fingernails, but he did not complete the evil act by injecting [his seed] into that foreign woman. Therefore, his skeleton was buried in Israel but not his body. As an aside, the Marsho suggests that the semen did escape from its usual source, avada this you can understand.
The Gemora, quoting a Breysa goes on to say that in the original master plan, 12 Shvatim were to have descended from Yoisef (like from Yaakov), but since the semen exuded from his (10) fingernails, he merited only two sons. Seemingly the rest of his juice slipped through his fingers. Efsher, had his zerah come from and gone into the right places, he would have taka had another 10 children; ver veyst? Whatever happened or not, is none of our business and zicher no excuse for you to ever put yourselves in a situation where semen can come out of your eyver or fingernails or any place else and end up in the wrong place. Of course, if it does, Yom Kippur is not far off.
And speaking of Yoisef not sinning, let’s review another top 10 medrish which is always a favorite of many readers. Every year we get emails asking that this one be reviewed for its life lessons and inspiration; here we go. This one again from Targum Yoinoson Ben Uzeal is also found in the big Chumish. For those who don’t know, the big chumish (Mikrois Gedoilis) is the one our kinderlach most often get as bar mitzvah gifts. Nu, it’s a good thing they can’t, even after 100k in tuition fees, make out the words and chap what most of what the medroshim have to say. Surprisingly, this edition hasn’t been banned by today’s radical rabbis. Listen to this amazing story at the end of our parsha. Let’s look at perek chof ches (47).
|22. Only the farmland of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Paroy, and they ate their allotment that Paroy had given them; therefore, they did not sell their farmland.||כב. רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים לֹא קָנָה כִּי חֹק לַכֹּהֲנִים מֵאֵת פַּרְעֹה וְאָכְלוּ אֶת חֻקָּם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָהֶם פַּרְעֹה עַל כֵּן לֹא מָכְרוּ אֶת אַדְמָתָם:|
|26. So Yoisef made it a statute to this day concerning the farmland of Egypt for the one fifth. Only the farmland of the priests alone did not become Paroy’s.||כו. וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתָהּ יוֹסֵף לְחֹק עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה עַל אַדְמַת מִצְרַיִם לְפַרְעֹה לַחֹמֶשׁ רַק אַדְמַת הַכֹּהֲנִים לְבַדָּם לֹא הָיְתָה לְפַרְעֹה:|
These two pisukim, found near the very end of the parsha, look innocuous, initially read as some boring history ober let’s avada recall that nothing in the heylige Toirah is boring and especially so in our parsha. If the RBSO told it to Moishe to tell it to us, there must be a good reason or even many. Let’s read how Yoinoson chapped pshat. Says he azoy:
After Yaakov and his family arrived to Mitzrayim, the hunger intensified. The people were starving, only Yoisef had the keys to the food lockers. The Mitzrim came for food, Yoisef charged them money. When their money ran out, he traded food for their animals, stuffed and live. When that ran out, he traded food for land and soon Paroy, under Yoisef’s astute leadership, owned all the land in Mitzrayim. Yoisef made Paroy fabulously wealthy, a genius mamish. And ever since, many world leaders, anti-Semites included, always surround themselves with a few smart Yiddin.
Nu, with that background, let’s learn the pisukim above one more time. We learn that Yoisef did not make the koihanim (goyishe priests) sell their land; he let them keep their land. They also had food. And the question is why? Why did Yoisef single them out for preferential treatment? As a side note and interestingly enough, by the Yiddin it’s davka the koihanim who didn’t get to own any land ober that for another day. What special relationship did he have with them and why the pity? Says Targum Yoinoson: to chap this, we need to revisit a scene way back in Parshas Vayayshev where Mrs. Potiphar accused Yoisef, after he seemingly rebuffed her advances, of attempted rape. She didn’t just yell rape, she produced evidence to back up her claim. She cracked open an egg, spilled the egg white only (mistama she was cholesterol conscious) onto the bed and told Mr. Potiphar, upon his arrival, that Yoisef had arrived earlier, if you chap, and had spilled his seed onto her bed. Hence the well known expression ‘”Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Though of course coined centuries later by the English playwright and poet William Congreve (24 January 1670 – 19 January 1729), we can kler that this Toirah passage was his inspiration for the now world famous quote. You hear this Raboyseyee? Can you imagine the lengths this scorned woman went to? It’s mamish shreklich and let this be a lesson to all of you: don’t leave a mess: cleanup after yourselves, if you chap.
Anyway, imagine Potiphar’s reaction when he’s informed of Yoisef’s activities and sees what he is being told and believes is zerah (semen) on the bed. Nu, as many a man would, he becomes enraged and wants to have Yoisef killed. Can you imagine that, cholila (heaven forbid)? Shoin, had he acted on his initial instincts, we wouldn’t have had a Yoisef, no parshas Miketz and Vayigash; yikes! And without Yoisef going to prison and interpreting dreams and then Paroy’s dreams and then becoming Viceroy, would we have had the entire sefer of Shmois, ver veyst?
Shoin, what happened next? Seemingly Mr. Potiphar wasn’t 100% certain that Mrs. Potiphar was telling the emes, he had epes some doubts about his own eishes chayil. What to do? Potiphar sought advice from the Koihanim (ministers) who suggested that Potiphar check the evidence to see if it would stand up. They, centuries before the discovery of DNA, told Potiphar to put a lit candle over the slimy substance. Seemingly, egg whites react differently to heat than does sperm. Who knew? Potiphar did just that and shoin! The gantze myseh was what they affectionately call in Yiddish jargon ‘an oisgiblozeneh eye’ (all BS). Well, blow me down! Is this not a givaldige chiddush (breakthrough)? And long before Barry Scheck and the Innocence Project, there was Potiphar and his ministers using DNA to exonerate Yoisef from charges of attempted rape on Mrs. Potiphar. Seemingly neither Yoisef nor the evidence, stood up if you chap and Potiphar realized that perhaps Yoisef was not guilty of the charges. Ober why did Yoisef still valger in prison for 12 years? Nu, efsher to save face and not to embarrass his wife and efsher still desirous of getting some at home, Mr. Potiphar had Yoisef locked up where he spent time with other important alleged wrongdoers; the rest is history. Nu, by now it should be abundantly clear to all of you that the RBSO runs the world and how, like the best movie directors, lehavdil elef alfay havdolois, makes every last piece of the puzzle fit? And as to why an innocent man was locked up for 12 years, nu, zicher not the first or last time. Let’s finish the medrish.
Years later as Yoisef is making all the Egyptians sell him their land and taxes them heavily, he remembers that the koihanim gave Potiphar sage advice and repays the favor. In fact Chazal on this parsha state that the lesson we must learn from this story is that we should never forget if someone does us a favor! We should always remember and when an opportunity presents, to repay the favor. And that, my friends, is the inspirational message to chaverim who weekly write or call asking for a takeaway, a serious message between the parsha review and the humor. Nebech, in real life, more often than not, if you do someone a favor, especially if it involves lending money, not just don’t you get repaid, but in many cases, the person owing you the money and the favor stops talking to you. Oy vey.
Shoin, since parshas Beirshis we have covered approximately 2,000 years of history and many conflicts between and among brothers. We have covered conflicts between brothers in kimat every parsha. From Kayin and Hevel in Breishis, to Loit and his nephew (whom he referred to as a brother), to Yitzchok and Yishmoel, to Yaakov and Eisav and of course the big one, the big machloikes between Yoisef and his brothers which lasted 22 years. We have met them all. Some of these ended up in great tragedy and others peacefully. The Yoisef story could have ended tragically but instead ended with a peaceful resolution. Hey, doesn’t every family have a brother not talking to another or a sister? Azoy geyt iz (that’s how it goes in real life, but should it?
Let’s close with nittel. As mentioned above, the most practiced minhag observed on Nittel Nacht is to abstain from Toirah study ober why? One logical explanation for this Christmas Eve tradition was the fear of pogroms. It was common in the Middle-Ages for the Christians to unleash pogroms in honor of their holidays. By forbidding Toirah study there was essentially no reason for anyone to leave their homes on Christmas Eve. In plain English: Nittel Nacht was started to save Yiddin from being beaten or killed by the goyim. One pshat offered is that refraining from Toirah study is intended to serve as a sign of mourning. All mourners, including all Yiddin on Tisha B’av, are forbidden from studying Toirah, since learning is an activity which makes one happy- so they say. The “mourning” in this context would be over the rivers of Jewish blood that have been spilled throughout the ages, all perpetrated in the name of Jesus. Some Chassidishe Rebbes went so far as to even refrain from sleep on Christmas Eve lest they dream about Toirah! The Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch was once “caught” learning Toirah on Nittel Nacht but quickly repented.
A gitten Shabbis!
The Oisvorfer Ruv