Raboyseyee and Ladies:
Shoin, Tisha Be’ov and its restrictions are over; we’re done -for this year- mourning the loss of both Botei Mikdash (Holy Temples). The Three Weeks and Tisha Be’ov have forced us to focus upon the trials and tribulations of our nation’s history; lots of bad stuff to remember.
Ober, beginning this past Monday, it suddenly became ok -efsher preferred, or even mandated- to be happy again. How does one go from such profound sadness to happiness in but hours? Are emotions controlled by the clock? And, exactly when on Monday were we to begin rejoicing by getting haircuts, shaving, doing laundry, buying new clothing, eating meat, and chapping, if you chap? Answer: the exact timing is of course subject to debate. According to some, a number of the Tishe Be’ov restrictions carried over until Monday. Why? Because -according to a few historians to include a gentleman by the name of Josephus, the fires of the Beis Hamikdash were either still burning or smoldering until Monday. When on Monday? That depends on whom you ask, exact times of course difficult to ascertain. When was the last ember extinguished? The bottom line: exact times -for kimat everything- in our beautiful religion are difficult to pin down; they are like opinions: everyone has one. Which begs the next question: when does shabbis end? What time did the fast on Tishe Be’ov end?
The bottom line: with the exception of one friend who decided to break his fast only late on Monday evening (after a two day fast, why, ver veyst; did he need extra time to cleanse himself of his personal demons)? Bottom line: the great majority of Yiddin were back in eating mode somewhere between 8:55 PM and 9:16 on Sunday evening. Of course, there must be other times. Why can’t all rabbis agree on a specific time? It’s quite poshit: it’s bad for business! Were they all to agree, would there be a need for more than one rabbi? Not! Veyter and whatever. The bottom line: rabbis are self-empowered -so they tell us- to set their own times. In shuls, zimanim (times) are typically published but if the rabbi decides to extend the shabbis or the fast buy a few minutes, he simply slows down his davening and the amida, and shoin, times are extended to his wishes. This begs yet one more question: why does it take them so much longer to daven than the rest of us? Should they not be proficient in reading Hebrew by now? Reading is fundamental; rabbis should be tested before being hired. Is it a mitzvah to schlepp out the Shema or the Shmoina Esray (amida)? Says the Ois: longer davening leads to machshovos zoros (bad thoughts); odds of a wandering mind increase dramatically the slower one davens. That was just a side rant. In any event, by sometime on Monday the mood was taking on an air of festiveness as Yiddin around the world began looking forward to two big events:
Ershtens, tomorrow night is Tu’ Beov, a far cry from Tishe Be’ov and it’s party-hearty time. Is it? So it was back in the days of the Gemora and specifically for single guys and girls. According to some, it was the second happiest day of the year. We shall address Tu’ Be’ov below, ober ershtens this thought.
If we are saddened yearly over the loss of the Botei Mikdash, structures that no one -in our times and for generations before us – have seen or experienced, imagine how distraught we are -or should be- over other structures- incredible buildings mamish that have been destroyed in the last 30 or so years? I speak of the loss and destruction of buildings over at the Pioneer Country Club, the Pineview Hotel in South Fallsburg, the famous Grossinger’s resort over in Liberty New York, the Concord in Kiamesha, the Hotel Evans (now Vacation Village) over in Loch Sheldrake, and others. Let’s not forget the Homowak, the Browns, the Raleigh, and of course, Kutchers Country Club. They’re nebech all gone. For many years, decades mamish, Shabbis Nachamu was celebrated away at these and other givaldige structures. These hotels (and bungalow colonies, many of the latter still operational) dotted the Catskill Mountains from exit 128 all the way west to exit 98. Al eilah ani Boichiya (over these I cry).
How can we be happy as Shabbis Nachamu approaches without a hotel to check (or sneak) into? Who amongst us didn’t try sneaking into Grossinger’s or the Concord back in the day? How many of us were in the trunk of a car? Who amongst us doesn’t recall with fondness the various buildings over at Grossinger’s? Who doesn’t miss the Paul, Harry or Jenny G? The pool? Or the pool over at the Pine View? The expansive couch filled lobby at the Pioneer? Who doesn’t long for one more weekend at the Pine View? Oy vey; where have they all gone? And while lamenting the loss of these great structures, let’s also shout out a few that dotted Collins Avenue in Miami Beach? How can we go on without Schechter’s Caribbean, the Saxony, the Crown, Waldman’s Sea Gull Hotel, and the various rentable rooms in the dives on the other side of Collins? See all images below. How are singles to meet? No wonder the shidduch crisis exploded and continues to grow geometrically since these structures disappeared; oy vey! We need them back. Shoin, let’s hope the Moshiach will make infrastructure and the rebuilding of these great structures, a priority. If he’s a democrat, funding should not be an issue.
DISCLAIMER: Before you bombard the heylige Ois with emails suggesting that he’s an apikoires and worse, and that it’s mamish sacrilegious to compare the losses, take a deep breath. These posts are written to make you smile and to reduce to writing what many of you are already thinking but remain afraid to so state publicly. Wake up and smell the coffee! And to thine own self be true! Shoin. What’s an apikoires? Says the Chofetz Chaim azoy: it’s someone “who denies the Toirah or the prophecies of Israel, either the written Toirah or the Oral Toirah, even if he says that he believes in the entire Toirah except for one verse or one law which is derived from the Toirah through the principles transmitted at Sinai.” The heylige Ois may be many things; an apikoires is not one of them.
There is some good news to share. With this week’s posting, the heylige Ois (formerly known as the Oisvorfer), begins year 12- wow- of parsha postings, and as I have done in the past, I begin by looking back to how and where it all began. Bikitzur (in short), there we were (the eishes chayil and I) over in Westhampton Beach -as guests of friends and neighbors Terri and Andrew Herenstein waiting for the heylige shabbis to begin. An instant message came in over the Blackberry, also of blessed memory. Chaver Avi Winkler sent a message asking for a quickie devar toirah before shabbis. He was up at Camp Seneca Lake where a devar toirah was zicher important each and every shabbis, and shoin: the first ever parsha review was punched out on the beautiful and easy to work Blackberry keypad, the simplicity of typing on it has yet to be replicated, and here we are. From one reader to half a million; mamish! From a few clicks to approximately 140,000-150,000 each week. From a handful of people to whom it was sent over email to hundreds of thousands. How did this all come to be? Ver veyst? A shout-out to chaver Mike Kogan -webmaster par excellence- whose idea it was to create the site. He has maintained it from the get go. Today the Ois is followed by a wide range of readers to include serious learners, those who don’t learn at all, women, rabbis and yeshiva rebbes. The bottom line as told to the heylige Ois this past Sunday morning -on Tishe Be’ov mamish by chaver and longtime reader Abe Abittan is azoy: “because you inject humor, it’s easy and enjoyable to read and retain the information.” Admission: that was not an exact quote but mamish the gist of what he said. As an aside, even with that gishmake shout-out, Abe still charges full price for his services. Shoin, he did spend years in medical school. Another bottom line: no matter what life gives, we move forward!
Shoin, let’s get back to Tu Be’ov, once a shtikel Yom Tov but in our days when the mingling of boys and girls could lead to mixed dancing, say it’s not so, now long forgotten and efsher verboten. Was it once mamish a yom tov? Nu, wouldn’t it be yom tov for you if by chance you happened upon a vineyard and found yourself gazing at hundreds of meydlich (young maidens), some even lookers, dancing in their flowing white dresses? And wouldn’t your holiday be enhanced as you envisioned yourself single again, chapping a dance and more, if you chap, with a few of those hundreds of young maidens? Again, to thine own self be true!
Besides the full moon which marks the 15th of Chodesh Av, come Friday night and all day shabbis, we will mark the special Yom Tov of Tu (numerically adding up to #15), of Av? Did any of you know that it was yom tov this week? Do you remember anything from your many days in yeshiva? How about the aleph beiz (Hebrew Alphabet)? And the emes is azoy: this wasn’t just any holiday but quite a special one, one that gets quite a bit of play in the heylige Gemora Tannis. Ober vus iz (what is it)? Nu, it turns out that the goyim chapped this holiday away from us, found a way to monetize it, brought it back with a new name, surrounded it with flowers, hearts, gifts and greeting cards and called it Valentine’s Day. Its name ad hayoim hazeh (until today).
What’s so special about this holiday that seems to have disappeared and gone the way of the rotary phone and the many hotels listed above and pictured below? Since when do we observant Yiddin skip a holiday, especially a festive one, and one that that doesn’t involve depriving ourselves of leather, food, water, bathing, mouthwash, relations with the eishes chayil and efsher others? One that doesn’t require food shopping until midnight, invitations to family members we mamish can’t stand, don’t want to talk or share a mean with ever again. The Ois is mamish tzibrochin (broken-hearted) to tell you that all that’s left over from this great day is that we don’t recite tachnun during davening. Taka not a small matter if it falls on a Monday or Thursday, which it does not this year. What’s tachnun you ask? Oy vey! Nu, if you went to shul during the week instead of just putting on your tefilin for five minutes at home, you would zicher know. One other vestige remains: should one happen to get married on Tu Be’ov, both chosson and kallah (bride and groom) are exempt from fasting.
Anyway Raboyseyee, come Friday night and shabbis, we will mark a tradition that dates back all the way to the Mishna (compiled way back in the end of the second century). Said Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel in the heylige Mishna (dating back some 1800 years or so), and we quote directly, azoy: “There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the Yiddin than Tu Be’ov and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel / Yerusholayim go out dressed in white and dance (also sing) in the vineyards.” And guess what? Single eligible bachelors somehow survived the kol isha (sounds of a women singing). What were the lyrics to those songs? “Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)” (Tanis, Chapter 4). Did you just read that correctly? Girls went dancing in white dresses on Yom Kippur and also on Tu Be’av in the vineyards looking for eligible men? Have you ever seen meydlich dancing on Yom Kippur in your shul? Are we davening in the wrong places? In any event, this beautiful tradition which predates the hotel lobby scene by over 1500 years, was seemingly lost.
What’s pshat lost? How does one lose a holiday? How does one break a tradition? Didn’t the restriction of going meatless during the nine days begin as a tradition? It did! Did Moshiach come? And did you know that according to some, taka most of the Jewish holidays will disappear when he appears? Moreover, did you know that so profound and meaningful was this holiday that our sages -and who knew more- point out that taka if Moshiach does make an appearance, virtually every major holiday will pale but Tu Be’av will come to the forefront. You hear this raboyseyee? You can see the value -mamish- of girls dancing, even in Moshiach’s times. Seemingly, our sages chapped and understood that boys and girls should meet in a natural setting and what could be more natural than girls dancing in a vineyard? Bring back the tradition!
Is the Ois suggesting that there was a time when a boy could meet a girl on his own, talk to her, make a date, even see her dancing and perhaps fall in love without being ostracized, shunned, and thrown out of yeshiva and worse? And she would still be eligible to wear white, if you chap? Yes he is. Seemingly there was such a time and a good amount of space is dedicated to this holiday and approach to marriage in the heylige Mishneh and Gemora. And that’s why Raboyseyee, you should all learn and love the heylige Gemora! And in that spirit, let’s taka learn what the Gemora told us.
To make a long story short, the heylige Gemora describes quite vividly how this was a day when all the single girls got dressed up in white dresses and went dancing before the boys in order to attract a suitable mate. Personally, the Ois prefers black dresses because les-man-dipolig (no one would argue), that black dresses are more flattering; they make the girls look thinner. They work like the side-view mirror: ‘Objects are larger than they appear.’ Shoin. Of course, it took several years to decide that white was the right color as a machloikes (argument) likely broke out between different sages as to the exact shade of white. One mistama argued that white meant white mamish, like the moon and the new bedika cloth. Ober, others may have argued that even off-white and perhaps even shades of gray were allowed but only bi-di-eved (if all white dresses are sold out).
Says the heylige Gemora: The single young ladies all wore special gowns of white. The purpose was to woo a potential groom, and the white indicated that they were free from sin; virgin white. Indeed, the Braisa (Taanis 31a) states that the custom was for everyone to borrow white clothing from others so that the poorer girls, who, in truth, lacked the financial means to clothe themselves properly, would not be embarrassed that they did not have something to wear. Isn’t it gevaldig how sensitive the rabbis were back then? Indeed, even the king’s daughter and the Kohain Godol’s daughter exchanged clothing.
As you can only imagine, if girls are dancing in the vineyards, boys couldn’t be too far behind. Is there a better combo than girls dancing and wine? Adds the heylige Gemora: “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride. Gevaldig! Was this outing the forerunner of the hotel lobby, social mixers, and the Pink Elephant Lounge? Next, the Gemora describes the pick-up lines used by the girls to ensnare, to chap their guy. There were three categories of dancing girls: the beauties, the comely, and the less than comely (uglies); girls in this last category mistama came from very good families. Ok- the Gemora doesn’t specifically state ‘the very uglies’ but we can imagine that if they had only yichus, and that’s all they used to lure the suitors, that looks were not their strongest features. Veyter. Here’s what each would call out to try to chap (entice) a man:
The beauties: “Look for beauty, for a woman is for beauty.” Sounds logical to most men. The not so beautiful; “Make your acquisition for the sake of Heaven, as long as you decorate us with jewels.” Maybe not very pretty, but pretty damn smart! And those with yichus only (very ugly): “Look for family, for a woman is for children.” What can be learned from their strategy raboyseyee? Jewelry and nice clothing, when needed, can help get the job done.
In next week’s parsha (Eikev) we will learn that one should not add or take away from the holy mitzvis given by the RBSO. And weren’t we also taught that Moishe came down from the mountain, not once but twice, schlepping those heavy rocks and that he also came down with the Toirah she-baal-peh (the oral tradition)? We were! And weren’t we also taught by the Rambam who includes this as one of his 13 principles- that we believe in the heylige Toirah that Moishe schlepped down, both oral and written? We do! Nu, shtelt zich di shaylo (the question arises): what happened to this piece of Mishna, the explanatory shtikel Gemora, and this holiday? And who gave the rabbis the right to dispense punkt (specifically) this holiday? Who gave our rabbis the right to play with the oral tradition? Oral is good. Answers anyone?
The bottom line of Shabbis Nachamu and its message comes from the Novee Yeshayahu’s (Yeshayahu 40:1) proclamation of comfort: “Nachamu nachamu ami yomar Elokeichem. In English: “Console My people says your G-d.” The world returns to its normal rhythms, and we are no longer -until next year this time- to be preoccupied with the dire times of Jewish history. We are to return to being happy. The fundamental lesson is one of hope. No matter what we may encounter in our lives, we must ever remember that “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.
Finally, this week we will be reading Parshas Voeschanan which contains a second reading of the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments), this set slightly different that the first, the first portion of the Shema prayer which contains most of the fundamentals of our beautiful religion, and much more. Go to shul!
A gittin Shabbis!
The Oisvorfer Ruv