Of Weddings and Divorce:
Nu, the big moment has arrived. It’s in this parsha where the Yiddin will get married to the RBSO, receive the heylige Toirah and quickly find out that a good number of their relationships are Ossur- verboten- kaput- over! No more marrying two sisters, no re-marrying an ex-spouse after she married and divorced someone else and myriad other such relationships; they’re over and done with. Avada there’s more in this special Parsha, halt zich eyn (relax: we’ll hopefully get to it) ober Parshas Yisroy, Raboyseyee, is mamish the big one! At long last the Yiddin will receive the Aseres Hadibrois (The Ten Commandments) and more.
Lommer unfangin (let’s begin) with the name of this special parsha. How do we reward an idol-worshipper, a Priest and a goy mamish? Nu, that’s easy, we name a parsha after him, why not? Welcome to Parshas Yisroy, one of several in the Toirah, named after a goy mamish. Couldn’t they find a nice Jewish guy or family to dedicate this Parsha to? Art Scroll seems never to run out of candidates. Did we have no takers and needed nebech to find a goy, a Priest noch-der-tzi (to add further insult), and one who served every getchka (idol) known to man and have his name appear on this famous Parsha? This isn’t stam any parsha – say like the toichocho (admonitions) or one about korbonois (sacrifices): this is the big one- the one with The Decalogue. The Yiddin have been waiting for this day for hundreds of years and we named the Parsha after whom? What’s pshat here? We need epes to better understand who this Yisroy character is and why he has a Parsha in his name. Or is pshat, as we’ve speculated in the past, that if the RBSO likes you, nothing else matters.
Other than being the high Priest idol worshipper, what was his Yichus? Or can we klerr (posit) that efsher he gave a shtikel dedication, isn’t that how everything is named and bought in the frum world, if you chap? Was Yisroy the forerunner of the model that Yeshivas and Shuls have utilized for generations since: all is for sale! Ver veyst? Nu, let’s delve a shtikel tiffer (let’s dig deeper) and try to chap why Yisroy has a parsha named for him and none of the other heylige Ovois or even Moishe do.
Says the heylige Zoihar: The Toirah could not be given to the Yiddin until Yisroy, the great and supreme priest of the pagan world, confessed his faith in the Holy One, saying, “Now I know that G-d is greater than all the gods.” That’s all it took?
Moreover, guess who first used the two most important words uttered by Yiddin (mostly orthodox) daily in good and bad times? Loit, after having both daughters? Avrohom, after getting his eishes chayil back twice from two different kings?, Yitzhcok, after chapping a 3 year old for a wife? Yankif, after outsmarting his younger brother a few times or after marrying two sisters and two more half-sisters? Efsher Moishe, after being swallowed by two snakes and escaping with his life and chapping a black beauty? None of the above; guess again. Grada the first person to utter this phrase (in that precise form) was none other than Yisroy the goy and by now a former Midianite high priest of idolatrous worship. Nu, and what did he say?
Said he: (Shmois: 18:9-11): “Boruch Hashem” (Blessed is Hashem), who has rescued you from the hand of Egypt. (18:10). Says the heylige Gemora: (Sanhedrin 94): that it was taka embarrassing for Moishe Rabaynu and the 600,000 Yiddin that Yisroy was the first one to bless the RBSO for saving them. Is it efsher possible that not one Yid had seen fit to thank and bless the RBSO for all the wonderful miracles which He had wrought for them until Yisroy expressed his feelings of gratitude and praise? Does this make sense? What’s pshat here? Is it even emes? Didn’t we learn just last week that following the miracles at Sea the Yiddin sang “Oz Yoshir” with Moishe? Isn’t that a song of praise? And doesn’t an entire song trump two words uttered by Yisroy the goy?
Nu avada. There’s an answer and says Tiferes Shlomo that while taka the Yiddin sang “Oz Yoshir” and gave thanks for all the good the RBSO had done for them, Yisroy was the first to praise the RBSO for the good that He showered upon others. In other words: though Yisroy was not directly affected by the Egyptian exodus and its ensuing miracles, he chapped the enormity of the RBSO. Though he could have easily said nothing, he was the first outsider to acknowledge the RBSO’s miracles and found the need to thank the RBSO for saving others. Taka a mentch!
It’s taka emes that we say these two words multiple times daily, for good and bad. Did you chap today? Nu, Boruch Hashem! And taka what would have been so giferlich about us quoting something profound from Moishe Rabaynu or Yoisef Hatzadik? Ver veyst? Seemingly there was more to this Yisroy than met the eye.
Seemingly he had some Yichus as well, albeit, not his own. He was the father of Tzipoira and also Moishe’s shver. He’s the fellow that sheltered Moishe after fleeing Mitzrayim (after killing another goy). Yisroy put him up and let him have his beautiful daughter for a wife. Do you think it was easy for Yisroy, the High Priest of Midyan, to accept a nice Jewish boy like Moishe as a son-in-law? Think how excited (not) your shver and shvigger (in-laws) were to have you. Mistama (likely) the Oisvorfer’s in-laws weren’t too thrilled either; nu, azoy geyt iz. Efsher the RBSO liked the fact that Yisory was a remarkable gentile (pagan, to be more precise), who–the Medrish tells us–in his quest for the ultimate truth, searched for meaning in all of the various idolatrous practices before ultimately converting. Or that after serving as one of Paroy’s ministers; he had mamish put his own life into danger by rejecting Paroy’s plan to kill the Yiddin. Says the Medrish: that Paroy had three key advisers while the Yiddin were enslaved – Bilam, Iyov (Job), and Yisroy. When he sought to annihilate the Yiddin by drowning Jewish newborn boys in the river Nile, Bilam signed on, Iyov abstained and only Yisroy advised against the plan. Subsequently he nebech had to flee to Midyan; Paroy wasn’t too happy with him either.
Says Shemois Rabba azoy: At first Yisroy was a priest to idols. Then, even before Moishe came to Midyan, after fleeing, Yisroy saw that there was no truth in it, and he renounced it and thought of repenting. He called the people of his town and said to them, ’Heretofore, I have served you, but now I am old. Choose for yourselves a different priest.’ And he brought out the vessels used in the service of idols and gave them to [the townspeople]. They then excommunicated him so that no one would associate or work with him.
Says Rashi that Yisroy had seven names: was he in the witness protection program? A chosid collecting food stamps under different aliases, Ver veyst? Among the seven was his second original name of Yeser to which the letter “vuv” was added when he (Yeser) accomplished good deeds for the Yiddin by helping his Eydim (son-in-law) establish a court system and mistama the first ever Law School with an all Jewish class. With an additional letter his name was changed to Yisroy and so he was seemingly known. Shoin! In other words: Yeser became Yisroy and joined other luminaries like Avrohom whose name was changed from Avram, Soroh Emaynu whose name was changed from Sorai and Yehoishua whose name was changed from Hoshaya. Suddenly, Yisroy the goy is looking like the man worthy of a Parsha.
But did he really convert and leave his former life behind? Do all agree that’s what took place? Ver veyst? Ershtens the facts: After saying Boruch Hashem and commending the RBSO for His great work in saving and protecting the Yiddin and after giving Moishe some sage advice, all we know with certainty is that he returns to his home in Midyan. Much later in the heylige Toirah, (Bamidbar 10: 29-32), Yisroy’s departure is described in greater detail. Moishe urged his shver to remain with the Yiddin, even promising proper Kuvid (respect)- at times, taka hard to come by in family circles. Some say Moishe promised a reward and says the Ramban, Moishe even promised Yisroy some land in Israel. Ober Yisroy couldn’t be bought and chose to return to “…his land and his birthplace.” For the record: his descendants, the Kenites, do join with the tribe of Yehudah (Shoiftim 1:16). Says Medrish Mechilta: there’s a machloikes (dispute)- what else is new- between Reb. Yehoishua, who suggests that Yisroy “departed from the glory of the world,” and Reb. Elozor HaModai’i, who maintains that Yisroy went back to convert others, saying, “A candle must give light in places of darkness.” Did he convert or not? Did he start and operate the first Kiruv organization? Ver veyst and the Toirah does not tell us. What’s the bottom line? He has a parsha named after him and you Oisvorfs don’t! And lucky for you (and me), the RBSO seems to like people with a shtikel background, if you chap.
Speaking of Yichus (again), did you know that Moishe Rabaynu too, had some baggage? Says the heylige Toirah (18,2:) “And Yisroy, the father-in-law of Moishe, took Tzipporah, wife of Moishe, after she had been sent away.” Sent away? Sent where and by whom?
Says the Yalkut: that Moishe divorced his eishes chayil Tzipoirah. And while many of you are still getting over the fact (according to some) that Moishe’s mother, Yoicheved, was married two or three times (and twice to the same person), now the Oisvorfer is telling you that Moishe too had marital issues? Oy vey! Yet another divorce in the mishpocho? Is that what mamish happened? Nu, depends who you ask. Says Reb Yehoishua, that the words ‘after he sent her away’ mean that taka Moishe divorced his eishes chayil and gave her a Get (unlike some other chazerrim pigs that leave the women hanging). Ober says Reb Eliezer that Moishe sent her away ‘with words’. Not having been divorced I’m not zicher what these words were or what they mean, but pleasant they couldn’t be. And le-mai nafka mina (what’s the difference)?
Nu, not to worry because avada there’s a logical explanation as to what took place here, the difference between the Get and ‘the words’ and it can be found in the Targum Yerushalmi which mamish brilliantly illuminates with this givaldige version of what went down. If you remember a few weeks back, we talked about the mayseh (referenced on the next page of this Toirah) where Moishe had an encounter with the Malach Hamoves (masquerading as a snake) who wanted to kill him. Tzipoirah saved the day and proclaimed (4:26) “For you are a bridegroom of blood to me”. And what has this to do with our story? Nu, halt kup (pay attention). Says the Targum Yerushalmi that when Yisroy allowed Moishe to marry his daughter, it came with a stipulation that he, Moishe, would not circumcise his first son. Ober following the snake encounter, the son was circumcised and seemingly Moishe had broken his promise to the shver. Lying to the shvigger is one thing but to the shver? As an aside, the Shver usually chaps and understands the eydim: no reason to lie to him. Anyway, as a result, the marriage was annulled retroactively. (As an aside: efsher this tactic can be used today for those wanting out and nebech there are many). What to do? Moishe needed to marry Tzipoirah all over again and according to this mamish amazing pshat, immediately following the bris, maybe there was also a chuppah and a chasina (wedding) causing Tzipoirah to state “you are a bridegroom of blood to me”, that through the blood of circumcision you have become to me like a new bridegroom. Mistama it’s safe to assume that she wasn’t referring to her own blood and that her hymen didn’t miraculously close up with the annulment, though with the Medrish, everything is possible, plausible and even probable.
And now, we’ll sew it up so gishmak that you’ll mamish chap why learning Toirah is the best schoira (merchandise); you won’t hear such creative stories in the office. Let’s look again at the possik in the heylige Toirah which now makes perfect sense, and taka learn it together. “And Yisroy, the father-in-law of Moishe, took Tzipporah, wife of Moishe”, who was again his wife, because he remarried her, “after she had been sent away” – after she had been sent away from being Moishe’s wife, when the stipulation not to circumcise had been broken. We can now explain the machloikes between the two Rebbes in the above Medrish. According to the Targum Yerushalmi which stated that the reason Moishe had not circumcised his son until now was because Yisroy had so stipulated – that he promised the shver not to- Tzipporah did not need a Get (bill of divorce) at all. The marriage had been annulled due to broken promises. Said Reb Eliezer: that with an annulled marriage, she was sent away with just words. Is this beautiful or what?
Ober the heylige Gemora in Nedarim says that the reason Moishe didn’t circumcise his son, is because he said: If I circumcise him and then I travel, it will be a danger to the child. From here it is apparent that the son in question was his second son, Eliezer, about whom there was no stipulation not to circumcise. And since Moishe had not broken his agreement with Yisroy, the marriage was not annulled, and therefore, Reb. Yehoishua explained that she had separated from him with a bill of divorce. Seemingly there is no dispute that Moishe was either separated or had his first marriage annulled and that he married her again. Shoin: life goes on.
And speaking of Moishe and his Yichus, listen to this Medrish right out of the heylige Novee (Shoiftim chapter 17) about a man named Michayahu (Micha for short), who founded an idolatrous cult. He had a fancy idol and built a temple for its purposes, but couldn’t find a good qualified priest to run the operation.
He sought someone with leadership qualities, charisma and spirituality to lead his group. After a long search he met Yehonasan ben Gershon ben Menashe, of the House of Levi. Michayahu offered him the job of High Priest of his new religion. Yehonasan agreed.
And who was Yehonasan ben Gershon ben Menashe of the House of Levi? His grandfather could not have been Menashe, the well-known villain, for he had not been born yet. Says the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 109) and the Baal Haturuim: “Menashe” is really a disguised form of “Moishe”. Yehonasan was the grandson of Moshe Rabaynu! What?? Such beautiful Yiddishe nachas. Moishe Rabaynu had an eynikel that was an idol worshipper or worse, the head honcho of the new cult? Say it’s not so please, ober seemingly according to this story it is. What did Moishe do to deserve such nachas and how could this story ever come about? Nu, says the Medrish: after working as a shepherd for Yisroy, Moishe sought his permission to marry his tuchter Tzipoirah. Yisroy conditionally agreed, with the stipulation that Moishe agree that their firstborn son would be dedicated to serve as a High priest in the Midianite religion. Yisroy wanted to make sure he would have a successor. He told Moishe that the rest of his children he could bring up as he saw fit but the firstborn he wanted for himself. Moishe agreed! Shoin! He calculated that by the time his firstborn son would be old enough to serve as a priest, he (Moishe) would have converted Yisroy to Judaism, and Yisroy would no longer hold him to this promise. Efsher Moishe rationalized that were Tzipoirah to marry someone else, all of her children would become Pagans. Moreover, Moishe liked Tzipoirah and justified his actions by reasoning that since Tzipoirah was his Bashert, he didn’t have the right to push her away. Sounds logical to me…
Moishe’s promise nevertheless haunted him for years. He named his first born Gershom because, as he put it, “I was a stranger in a strange land.” I wasn’t my own man. I couldn’t make my own decisions; I was a guest – a stranger. He didn’t circumcise Gershom (as we read just above) because that would have been a violation of his agreement with Yisroy. Even when the Malach disguised as a snake or two almost killed Moishe, his wife Tzipoirah, who never promised anything, was the one who became the first ever Moeles (female Mohel), did the cutting and circumcised Gershom. As it turned out, Moishe’s calculations proved correct and his first born – Gershom- was taka saved from idol-worship. But somehow in Shomayim the story continued because the words of Tzadikkim count as do their promises (unless they charge you, if you chap) Moishe’s son was spared but his grandson became a priest. Well, blow me down. Thankfully, none of us are on Moishe’s level and the RBSO understands and is used to us making promises we never meant and won’t keep. And maybe that’s taka why our marriages don’t get annulled from a few lies here and there; can you imagine the scene if it were otherwise? And that concludes this week’s look into Yichus. Veyter in the parsha, here we go. Nu, the Yiddin are getting ready to receive the heylige Toirah.
As the Yiddin are getting ready for the big event on the small mountain, Moishe is instructed to warn the people not to ascend the mountain, and that after (the revelation), He would blow the ‘yoivel,’ (the Shoifer). Following the revelation, the prohibition would be lifted. Where did this shoifar come from? Says Rashi, citing a Medrish in Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (31): It came from the ram which Avrohom Oveenu at the last moment sacrificed in place of Yitzchok. The ram’s left horn was used for the shoifar blowing on Har Seenai. Its sound became louder and louder, to prepare them for the great revelation from the RBSO. And what about the right horn? Seemingly the right horn is even bigger than the left and it will be blown at the time of redemption, when the Moshiach makes an appearance. You hear this? Asks the Mishnah (Zevachim 85): how could this be? Avrohom should have burned the horns of the ram along with its head, as long as the horns remained attached to the head. Ober, answersThe Ramban: that it’s possible that the RBSO collected the ashes of the horn which Avrohom taka did burn and fashioned them back into a horn. Shoin! He’s the RBSO and zicher He can do whatever He wants, who are we to question this? Did you question the 10 Makois or Kriyas Yam Suf? Why are you sinister about turning ashes into a horn? But, says The Maharal: that in the same chapter of Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, we are told that nothing in that ram went to waste, and the other horn will be used in the future, to announce the coming of the Moshiach at the end of days. The point of the Medrish, says The Maharal, is that the ram brought by Avrohom was not a conventional ram, but one whose origins went beyond nature, and, so, even if it was burned on the altar, it could still be used at Har Seenai. Gishmak mamish.
And avada you all remember learning in Yeshiva that in preparation for receiving the heylige Toirah the RBSO held the entire Har Seenai over our heads and gave the Yiddin an ultimatum. Either they accept the Toirah or perish under the weight of the mountain that would come crashing down on them. Did this mayseh really happen? Is this the proper way to romance the Yiddin into marrying the RBSO? Says the heylige Gemora (Shabbis 88a) that taka the RBSO covered the 600,000 assembled Yiddin with the entire mountain. Said the RBSO, “If you accept the Toirah, fine. But if not, your burial will be there!” Says the Marsho: that the Yiddin were actually inside the mountain. Why did/would the RBSO resort to such tactics after the Yiddin had previously exclaimed that they were ready to accept the Toirah and why did the RBSO use such force? Taka an excellent kasha. Nu, seemingly many were taka bothered by this mayseh and have offered explanations; let’s take a look. Parts of the answers are found in Talmudic and Kabbalistic teachings. When the RBSO started talking to the Yiddin, every Jew heard His voice in his soul. The result was shocking, as the Jews couldn’t grasp the direct voice of G-d. What happened was that their souls temporarily left their bodies. There is a teaching that at this very moment the Yiddin all died but, at the same time, the RBSO caused them to be resurrected. Afterwards, the RBSO spoke to Moishe only. Says Toisfis that efsher this shocking experience may have caused the Yiddin to change their minds and the RBSO then decided to force them to accept the Toirah: too late to back out.
Says the Medrish and The Ramban: that the Yiddin were willing to accept the Toirah and its mitzvois regarding Eretz Yisrael but were not too excited about accepting the Mitzvois for the Diaspora and adds the Maharal of Prague: that if the Yiddin had changed their minds and refused to accept the Toirah, the world would have returned to its pre-creation state of TOHU. Meaning: If the Jews had said that they don’t want the Toirah, G – d might have destroyed our world and returned everything to Tohu. Yikes!
Ober said Rebbe Acha ben Yaakov in the heylige Gemora (shabbis 88a): This holding the mountain over their heads incident, may have amounted to undue duress and resulted in a strong legal argument against the heylige Toirah- chas v’sholom, say it’s not so. Ober said Raba not to worry: the Yiddin are still bound to the heylige Toirah and its teachings for they re-accepted it (of their own volition) in the days of Purim as it is written (Esther 9:27): “The Jews confirmed, and accepted”–on that occasion they confirmed what they had accepted long before.
A gitten shabbis-
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