Thursday, December 28, 2006


Please note: I originally posted a draft of this on Wednesday at 07:04:00 PM, disclaiming that it was a work in progress. It is no longer a work in progress, but complete. All bugs and weasels have been banished from the text (which has also, alas, grown longer).
I thank you for your patience, and look forward to your thoughts (hoping, fervently, that you will have some).


11th Parsha in Bereishis (Genesis)
Vayigash = And he drew near
Psookim 44:18 - 47:27

First Aliya: Judah speaks with Josef about the stolen wine-beaker, starting with the events that preceded when Josef asked about their father and their family.
Eerste alija: Jehoedah spreekt met Jozef over de gestolen wijnbeker, beginnende met de vragen die Jozef stelde over hun vader en hun familie.

Second Aliya: Judah proposes to Josef that not Benjamin but he himself should be slave, and that Josef permit Benjamin to return to their father. Deeply moved, Josef reveals to the brothers that he is their sibling, and explains that in what had happened the hand of Hashem is evident.
Tweede alija: Jehoedah pleit met Jozef dat niet Benjamin maar hijzelve slaaf tot Jozef word, mits Jozef Benjamin tot hun vader laat wederkeren. Uiterst ontroerd laat Jozef aan de broeders blijken hun verdwene broeder te zijn, en legt uit dat in het gebeurde de hand van de eeuwige ligt.

Third Aliya: Josef instructs them to return to Canaan, in order to bring their father and their family to Egypt because of the continuing years of scarcity. Pharaoh extends an invitation to this effect.
Derde alija: Jozef zegt hun terug te keren naar Kenaan om hun vader en de rest van de familie te brengen om de komende hongersnood jaren veilig te verblijven. De Pharaoh strekt hun bovendien daar een uitnodiging voor.

Fourth Aliya: Josef sends the finest of Egypt, with supplies, and food for JaKob, to Canaan with his brothers, who upon their arrival tell their father that Josef lives and is viceroy of Egypt.
Vierde alija: Jozef stuurt het fijnste van Egypte, alsmede bevoorading, en voedsel voor Jakob, met zijn broeders terug naar Kenaan, waar de broeders hun vader Jakob vertellen dat Jozef leeft, en onderkoning van Egypte is.

Fifth Aliya: Before leaving for Egypt Jakob brings a scarifice at Beersheba, where Hashem tells him that he will bring him down to Egypt, and will also be with him when he comes up again to the land. The list of the seventy souls that descend to Egypt follows.
Vijfde alija: Alvorens naar Egypte te vertrekken om zijn lang verdwenen zoon Jozef te weerzien, voltrekt Jakob te Beersjeba een offerande, waar Hasjem hem zegt dat hij Jakob zowel neer naar Egypte zal brengen, als met hem zal zijn wanneer hij weder omhoog naar het land zal keren. Vervolgens een lijst van de zeventig zielen die naar Egypte nedergaan zullen.

Sixth Aliya: Jakob and Josef see each other again for the first time in 22 years. Five brothers are presented to Pharaoh to represent the entire family, to tell Pharaoh about the occupations of Jacob's clan, and to show Pharaoh what manner of people he has invited into Egypt. JaKob meets Pharaoh, and there is an exchange of courtesies.
Zesde alija: Jakob en Jozef zien elkaar voor het eerst in twee en twintig jaren. Vijf broeders worden naar Pharaoh gebracht als vertegenwoordigers van de gehele familie, om Pharaoh te vertellen wat hun kunde is, en Pharaoh te laten zien wat voor mensen hij in huis gehaald heeft. Jakob krijgt een audientie, waarin wederzijds beleefdheid geld.

Seventh Aliya: The lasting famine affects Egyptian society severely, and Josef restructures the nation thoroughly in order to preserve both the land and people of Egypt.
Zevende alija: De jarenlange hongersnood tast de Egyptische maatschappij aan, en Jozef hervormd deze grondig tot behoud van land en volk van Egypte.



Psook 44:18 "Vayigash elav Yehuda vayomer bi adoni yedaber-na avdecha davar beaznei adoni veal-yichar apcha beavdecha ki chamocha keFaro"
Then Judah came near to him, and said: 'Oh my lord, let your servant, I pray you, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not your anger flare up against your servant; for you are like Pharaoh.

Rashi suggest here that Yehudah is warning Yosef that a consequence of acting against Benyamin might be tzaraas - absurd! The situation is not at all similar to their great grandmother Sarah detained by Pharaoh!

But rather, 'may your anger not flare up, for you are like Pharaoh' meaning that Yehudah knows of his responsibility and power, but would nevertheless wish to risk speaking to him straightforwardly on this matter, because it is so important to him.

Yehudah had no choice but to attempt to save Benyamin, and so found the courage to speak to Pharaoh's viceroy.

Rashi further implies a threat - if Pharaoh's viceroy antagonizes Yehudah, according to Rashi, Yehudah will kill both the viceroy and Pharaoh. Which, also, is absurd, as even part of it would have guaranteed the death of all brothers.

Psook 44:20
"Vanomer el-adoni yesh-lanu av zaken veyeled zekunim katan veachiv met vayivater hu levado leimo veaviv ahevo"
And we said to my lord: We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.

And his brother is dead - Yehudah at this point has no reason to believe otherwise, because if Yosef is alive, why has he not returned to his family?

Psook 44:22
"Vanomer el-adoni lo-yuchal hanaar laazov et-aviv veazav et-aviv vamet "
And we said to my lord: The lad cannot leave his father; for if he should leave his father, his father would die.

Why can he not leave his father?

Because both father and son rely upon each other, and more, he respresents all the brothers while they are away.

And who would die? Jakov or Benyamin? Rashi opines Benyamin, likening the situation to Rachel who died while on the road, and this is valid.

Psook 44:32
"Ki avdecha arav et-hanaar meim avi lemor im-lo avienu eleicha vechatati leavi kol-hayamim"
For your servant became surety for the lad to my father, saying: If I bring him not to you, then shall I bear the blame to my father for ever.

["And Yehudah said to Israel his father: 'Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live, and not die, both we, and you, and also our children.
I will be his surety, from my hand you can demand him. If I do not bring him to you, and stand him before you, then let me bear the blame for ever.']

Yehudah has pledged the future of his line on behalf of his brother. Now note - as his brother represents all of the brothers to Yakov, and thus to the collective 'Israel', Yehudah's future and his lineage are pledged to all, including Yosef. This is why we shall read that the leadership shall not pass from Yehudah when Yakov blesses him.

And what Yehudah here proposes is that it is better that he should remain a slave in Egypt and his sons be blessed by Yakov, than that Benyamin stay in Egypt and Yehudah and his sons be cursed.

Psook 44:33
"Veata yeshev-na avdecha tachat hanaar eved ladoni vehanaar yaal im-echav"
Now therefore, let your servant, I pray you, abide instead of the lad as a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brothers.

Instead of - not knowing what would be his fate. If it is said that Potifar acquired Yosef for a catamite, then this is equally likely so for Benyamin as slave to the viceroy. And Rashi points out that Yehudah claimed himself a better candidate for any matter, to persuade the viceroy to choose him instead of Benyamin.

[In reference to Potifera, whom both Rashi and the Midrashic sources aver was Potifar, but because he had purchased Yosef for homosexual purposes, he was made neuter and became Potifera.]


Psook 45:1
"Velo-yachol Yosef lehitapek lechol hanitzavim alav vayikra hotziu chol-ish mealai velo-amad ish ito behitvada Yosef el-echav"
Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried: 'Cause every man to go out from me.' And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known to his brothers.

Those who had been standing were the guards, clerks, functionaries, and court officers. As is clear - the brothers, up to that time, had been supplicants, and thus were in abased positions rather than standing upright.

Psook 45:4
"Vayomer Yosef el-echav geshu-na elai vayigashu vayomer ani yosef achichem asher-mechartem oti Mitzraima"
And Joseph said to his brothers: 'Come near to me, I pray you.' And they came near. And he said: 'I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.

Rashi claims at this point that Yosef showed his brothers that he was circumcised, to prove that he was their brother, as is borne out by Tanchumah 5, and Bereishis Rabbah 93:8.

But this implies that they did not believe him despite his emotion, despite his voice, and despite his speaking their language. Think rather, they were still in doubt, because Yosef's revelation of his true identity dramatically changed the situation, and was utterly flabbergasting besides. And if he was indeed their brother, was he vindictive about the past?
They are in shock, they do not know what to think.

But Yosef reassured them by inviting them to come closer to him, as only kin are close, and he explained to them how it was.

Showing that he was circumcised would have been pointless - if they disbelieved all else, this too would not convince them. The appearance of circumcision could be an Egyptian trick, it is inconclusive, and it cannot have been a secret that the second most important man in Egypt was a Hebrew.

And concerning the viceroy being Hebrew, at that time the term may not have been limited to Abraham's descendants, else why would the wine-steward have so described Yosef to Pharaoh? A term which applies to only a few dozen people would have no meaning to the ruler of Egypt. It is likely instead that the term at that time was an alternative to Canaanite, or a Canaanite regionymic. Yet if it does have the particular meaning that we associate it with, this would suggest that our text metaphorizes in terms its readers can understand, in order to make a point.

Now, had there been any implied threat from Yehudah, as Rashi suggested, Yosef would have been ill-advised to have sent away the guards and have these potentially treacherous men, who HAD done ill to him in the past, draw close.

Psook 45:6
"Ki-ze shenatayim haraav bekerev haaretz veod chamesh shanim asher ein-charish vekatzir"
For these two years has the famine been in the land; and there are yet five years, in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest.

It is normal to prepare for a drought in the following year, as one year's good harvest may not be followed by another like it. And this implies seed for the third year. Yosef here is praeluding to there being more years of famine.

There shall be neither plowing - for what is the use of plowing when the earth is baked, and it is evident that even beyond the depth of the furrow there is no water? Seed sown would be better eaten.

Nor harvest - and even if there were to be a plowing, it would be without issue, so severe is the drought.

Psook 45:8
"Veata lo-atem shelachtem oti hena ki haElohim vayesimeni leav leFaro uleadon lechol-beito umoshel bechol-eretz Mitzrayim"
So now it was not you that sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Father to Pharao = Translation of the title; Vizier. But the expression shows that though his responsibilities may include his kinfolk, it transcends them. But also, Yosef and relatives under his protection must act responsibly towards Egypt. A conflict of interest, or a conflation?
If purposes coincide, neither.

[And note that familial terms indicate a level of closeness and respect even today - young associates are 'achi', respected older gentlemen are 'abba'. Especially so among the Edomites and others native to that region.]

Psook 45:9
"Maharu vaalu el-avi vaamartem elav ko amar bincha Yosef samani Elohim leadon lechol-Mitzrayim reda elai al-taamod"
Make haste, and go up to my father, and say to him: So says your son Joseph: God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.

Psook 45:10
"Veyashavta veeretz-Goshen vehayita karov elai ata uvaneicha uvenei vaneicha vetzoncha uvekarcha vechol-asher-lach"
And you shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shalt be near to me, you, and your children, and your children's children, and your flocks, and your herds, and all that you have

Dwell in the land of Goshen - Yakov's kin are not to mingle with all Egypt or presume upon their relation to Pharaoh through Yosef, but to exist separately, both for their own and Egypt's sake. It is not intended that they become Egyptian, but merely that they be included under Egypt's umbrella.

As herdsmen, and as stewards of Pharaoh's cattle, they will be separate from those who later in this account sell themselves and their lands to Pharaoh for food, and they will remain mobile - such as a tribe fleeing from oppression at some point in the future might well need to be.

Psook 45:11
"Vechilkalti otcha sham ki-od chamesh shanim raav pen-tivaresh ata uvetcha vechol-asher-lach"
And there will I sustain you; for there are yet five years of famine; lest you come to poverty, you, and your household, and all that you have

He finishes the statement which began in psook 45:6. 'These past two years, and yet five more years'.

Psook 45:12
"Vehine eineichem root veeinei achi Binyamin ki-fi hamedaber aleichem"
And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaks to you.

Paraphrasis: "You are witnesses, and Benyamin, who bears no blame, is also a witness - it cannot be covered up; both your knowledge of events, and the life of Benyamin, wil testify that these are the facts, or else he would be a slave, and you would return desolation to Yakov".

Regarding the language Yosef spoke to this brothers, the Ramban opines that the holy tongue was the language of Canaan, as Abraham did not bring it there from Ur of the Chaldees or from Haran, where Aramaic was spoken. He mentions also that what Yosef said of the circumstance that brought him to Egypt was greater proof of his identity than his language, as linguistic ability (speaking Canaanite) could be expected of important Egyptians accustomed to dealing with foreigners.

Psook 45:14
"Vayipol al-tzavrei Binyamin-achiv vayevke uVinyamin bacha al-tzavarav"
And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.

As brothers who have not seen each other in many years will do, like Yakov and Esav. But on Benyamin first, as this is the brother whom he had not seen longer than the others, who stands in for his father Yakov, and who was blameless of events. Only then his other brothers.

[And note that there is no suggestion of one wishing to bite the neck of the other, as Rashi imputed to Esav - though the circumstances are not dissimilar, and the expression is virtually the same. Some of the early commentators were quick to condemn Esav.]

Rashi here sees fit to allude to the two temples in (the territory of) Benyamin, and the tabernacle of Shiloh in Yoseph, which are destined to be destroyed. The juxtaposition is a useful mnemonic, but no causal link is credible. So, 'as', not 'because'.


Psook 45:16
"Vehakol nishma beit Paro lemor bau achei Yosef vayitav beeinei Faro uveeinei avadav"
And the report thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying: 'Joseph's brothers are come'; and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants.

Why was the report pleasing?

Because Pharaoh and his servants knew by this that Yosef was not alone, but had family and the sense of responsibility towards others that his position required. But if Yosef is not alone, then there are others like him (having similar talents or virtues), and among these too there surely must be those by whom Egypt can benefit. And further, Yosef putting his kin separate from, and not over, Egypt, spoke well of his and his kinfolks character, as in a previous parshas we saw that the allegation against Yosef was unbelievable and moot to Pharaoh.

And it may be said that Pharaoh and his household were pleased because they saw that Yosef's brethren had come for him from Canaan, from whence he had been stolen, as Yosef would not have intimated the exact details. One does not portray one's relatives in an unfavourable light, the more as his brothers had eaten at some distance from the pit (so as not to hear his entreaties), wherefore he could not have heard aught of the discussion regarding his fate, and he himself knew who had found him there and who had sold him, and who had brought him down to Egypt.

Psook 45:17
"Vayomer Paro el-Yosef emor el-acheicha zot asu taanu et-beirchem ulechu-vou artza Kenaan"
And Pharaoh said to Joseph: 'Say to your brothers: Do this: load your beasts, and go, get you to the land of Canaan;

Why did Pharaoh say this to Yosef?

Because it shows that it is by his (Pharaoh's) wish that it happen, not by Yosef favouring his kin over his obligations. It is his wish because Yosef had benefitted Egypt (as might his relatives), and Yosef had done so and proven himself worthy of trust because he feared Hashem.

Think of it this way: "If I do well by Yosef, who has preserved my kingdom, then Yosef's god cannot by Yosef withdraw his favour".

Pharaoh, by commanding Yosef's brothers, authorizes the expense, thus either augmenting OR supplanting the money that Yosef had laid out. And one who provides funds has not only the merit of the action he has thus enabled, but also the merit of enabling the action through others, who also gain merit.

Psook 45:22
"Lechulam natan laish chalifot semalot uleVinyamin natan shelosh meot kesef vechamesh chalifot semalot"
To all of them he gave each man changes of clothes, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver, and five changes of clothes.

So much more to Benyamin because Benyamin endured accusation, and as previously mentioned, to Benyamin is as if to Yakov.

Psook 45:23
"Uleaviv shalach kezot asara chamorim nosim mituv Mitzrayim veeser atonot nosot bar valechem umazon leaviv ladarech"
And to his father he sent in like manner ten asses laden with the best of Egypt, and ten she-asses laden with grain and bread and food for his father by the way.

Asses and she-asses - not only what they were laden with, but also the animals themselves, as including both genders makes it a herd which will have young, not merely a pack-train.

The best of Egypt - Rashi, a wine merchant, happily seizes upon this to mean vintage wines, based on Talmudic references. But a better understanding is those things which add enjoyment to life, as well as those things which sustain life (grain and bread), and in addition to delicacies and tonifying foods for his father.

Psook 45:24
"Vayeshalach et-echav vayelechu vayomer alehem al-tirgezu badarech"
So he sent his brothers away, and they departed; and he said to them: 'do not become agitated while underway.'

Do not become agitated... Why is this said?

Because not only are they commissioned by Pharaoh as we read in psook 45:17, but this too is by the hand of Hashem, and therefore their responsibility surely outweighs other considerations.

It is like this: "Do not become entangled in issues or side-tracked, but singlemindedly make haste, for this is of primary importance. Also do not dwell on my reappearance (which may put you in a bad light), or wonder what untruths you told our father before, but focus instead upon the matter at hand. Do not let your resurgent shame prevent you from doing what needs to be done."

Tirgezu (distracted, agitated) is also associated with fear and trembling - "do not fear, because it is by Pharaoh's authority and protection that you travel, and do not fear, lest what you told our father now come to haunt you. You will not be robbed while underway (because of the power of Pharaoh), and when you arrive it will be evident tha Hashem arranged even that you should have made your brother go down to Egypt and become viceroy for precisely this eventuality".


Psook 45:26
"Vayagidu lo lemor od Yosef chai vechi-hu moshel bechol-eretz Mitzrayim, vayafag libo ki lo-heemin lahem"
And they told him, saying: 'Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.' And his heart rejected it, for he believed them not.

Why did his heart (mind) reject it?

Because it defied reason - were he to believe them now it would negate what they had told him all these years, and why would Israel have a future beside the land? It is furthermore natural to disbelieve the extraordinary.
It was unbelievable, like before, when Hashem both spoke of and showed to Pharaoh the coming famine (psook 41:1 - 7), as explained by Yosef (psook 41:25 - 29). NowYakov's sons spoke to their father and showed what had been sent with them by Yosef (as substantiation of what they said), and explained what had happened and what Yosef had told them.

Also, an attachment to the land where he was now settled (after fleeing it years before, and being in exile by Lavan many years) affected Yakov, and an infection by its inhabitants among whom he lived, azoy: if the land was to be the inheritance of Israel, then would it not would include the resources, among which the population?
Israel was small at that time, and it could not yet be conceived that they would be so large as to fill the land (though that is indeed what was promised to Abraham), so logically, a civil assumption of authority springs to mind, rather than a divinely guided inheritance.

As we shall see from the example of the Egyptians who will sell themselves and their land to Pharaoh, and who in the future will side with a new Pharaoh in persecuting the Hebrews, a land cannot sustain two separate peoples.

Psook 45:27
"Vayedabru elav et kol-divrei Yosef asher diber alehem vayar et-haagalot ashero-shalach Yosef laset oto vatechi ruach Yaakov avihem"
And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them; and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived.

The wagons that Yosef had sent - with the authority of his position, and the approval of Pharaoh, and as per Pharaoh's command.

Psook 45:28
"Vayomer Yisrael rav od-Yosef beni chai elcha veerenu beterem amut"
And Israel said: 'There is much; Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die.'

There is much - a surfeit of things good to Israel. The news that his son lives, the return of all his other sons, including Simeon who was held in Egypt, and Benyamin upon whom he relied and ose freedom had been at risk, and also the reconciliation of Yosef with his brothers. There is much.

I shall go and see him before I die - that which he dared not think for many years now becomes reality, and his most heartfelt wish will be fulfilled.

But he does not say that he will die upon seeing his son; he expects and intends to yet return to the land.


Psook 46:1
"Vayisa Ysrael vechol-asher-lo vayavo Beer-shava vayizbach zevachim l'Elohei aviv Yitzhak"
And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-sheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

Thus recommitting to the land, as he and his fathers had there trusted Hashem.

By the sacrifice at Beersheba Yakov honoured his father Yitzhak who had been wont to sacrifice there also, and so, by sacrificing to the god of his father he honours both his father and his father's father, and thus reaffirms his faith in and adherence to the covenant of Hashem to Abraham.

Psook 46:2
"Vayomer Elohim leYisrael bemarot halaila vayomer Yaakov Yaakov, vayomer 'hineni'"
And God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said: 'Jacob, Jacob.' And he said: 'Here am I.'

Psook 46:3
"Vayomer anochi ha El-Elohei-avicha al-tira merda Mitzraima ki-legoi gadol asimcha sham"
And He said: 'I am God, the God of your father; fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation.

This informs Yakov that it is by Hashem's devising, and it shall be indeed that the land is to be Israel's inheritance - Hashem is everywhere, even in Egypt, and even in Egypt will Israel be heir to the Eretz Kadosh.

Psook 46:4
"Anochi ered imcha Mitzraima veanochi aalcha gam-alo veYosef yashit yado al-eineicha"
I will go down with you into Egypt; and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph shall put his hand upon your eyes.'

Hashem speaks to Yakov in particular, but also means that He wil bring his descendents up from Egypt back to the land.

Note that this is not a promise, but a statement of fact (because it is Hashem speaking).

Jacob the individual will return to the land, and Israel the collective of Jacob are also destined to return. This is a future event, openended when it is said, and hence an eternal certainty. Even at the very end of time, Hashem will bring Israel up, and Israel's return to the land is according to Hashem's design. It is a mitzvah to live in the land, and if a mitzvah is to be performed, Hashem will assist therein. Or rather, it is by the aid of Hashem that one may perform the mitzvah.

And in relation thereto, note that ten represent Israel, as the ten brothers did before Yosef during the first visit. And one also represents Israel, as Benyamin during the second visit, and as Yosef was and Yakov will be before the Pharaoh. Even the remnant represent Israel, with whom Hashem will be when descending and when returning up to the land, at all times since Israel went down into Egypt, as it says "and I will surely bring you up again".

And Joseph shall put his hand upon your eyes - it is customary for the favoured son to close the eyes of his father at the time of death, though normally it is the right of the oldest son to be the one who does so.

[In the family of Abraham normal applecarts, however, are often upset. Younger brothers get the blessings of the eldest son, and second-born sons might end up with the farm. This whole tale turns around such twists.]

Psook 46:5
"Vayakam Yaakov miber shava vayisu venei-Yisrael et-Yaakov avihem veet-tapam veet-nesheihem baagalot ashero-shalach Paro laset oto"
And Jacob rose up from Beer-sheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.

Psook 46:6
"Vayikchu et-mikneihem veet-rechusham asher rachshu beeretz Kenaan vayavou Mitzraima, Yaakov vechol-zaro ito"
And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him;


Being a listing of all those whose descendents shall return from Egypt.

Psook 46:7
"Banav uvenei vanav ito benotav uvenot banav vechol-zaro hevi ito Mitzraima"
His sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt.

When refering to lineages the plural sons (of) and daughters (of) is accurate. All his seed implies all who are and will be among his descendants.

Psook 46:8
"Veele shemot benei-Yisrael habaim Mitzraima Yaakov uvanav bechor Yaakov Reuven"
And these are the names of the children of Israel who came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob's first-born.

Psook 46:10
"Uvenei Shimon Yemuel veYamin veOhad veYachin veTzochar veShaul ben-hakenaanit"
And the sons of Simeon: Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of the Canaanite woman.

Rashi explains that the Canaanite woman was Dinah, by reason of her having been raped by Shechem the son of Chamor the Chivite. Which is bent but logical. Then Rashi states that Shimon, her brother, who was thirteen at the time when she was raped, married her. Which poses a problem - who is the father of Shaul? He is the son of the Canaanite woman, which if that is Dinah means that he was born after Asnat, if Rashi's previous assertion that Asnat, Yosef's wife, was Dinah's daughter, is to be believed.

So if Shimeon had fathered him, why is he called the son of the Canaanite woman?

Rather, he is mentioned last in order, and as the son of the Canaanite woman, which suggests that Shimon may have had a concubine from among the daughters of the land, contrary to the ideal custom of Abraham, Yitzhak, and Yakov.

In any case, the son of the Canaanite woman is not of the same mother as the other sons of Shimon. Rashi's explanation is far-fetched - the obliqueness of reference in the text suggests a mother not worth any further detail, though her son must be mentioned as part of Israel.

Psook 46:15
"Ele benei Lea asher yalda leYaakov beFadan-aram veet Dina vito kol-nefesh banav uvenotav sheloshim veshalosh"
These are the sons of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob in Paddan-aram, with his daughter Dinah; all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three.

With his daughter Dinah - whose offspring adhere to no tribe (unless of course Rashi's incestuous explanation is believed), and thus cannot be counted by tribal nomen or to the land, though nevertheless part of Israel - a foreshadowing of the Erev Rav.

Mention of Dinah here, and mention of the Canaanite woman previously - if they are the same person, why is mention made twice?

All the souls, his sons and his daughters - if daughters, then who beside Dinah? Rashi earlier postulated Asnat, yet it is as logical to suppose the 'Canaanite woman'. If her son is also counted (and his soul came from her), then she too has a lineage among Israel. Likely a convert, perhaps a 'bas Sarah', and conceivably as such adopted. But as she and Dinah are mentioned separately, they are meant separately.
Hence 33 souls.

Rashi also mentions Jochebed, who was born in Egypt, as the thirty third - a monumental stretch, as lineage offspring are listed in order according to their parent, and it is clarified in the list that exceptions to coming to Egypt are Manasseh and Efraim, whose lineage on their mother's side is also made clear - they are the grandchildren of Potifera, priest of On (psook 41:45).

Regarding Jochebed, this is the same as Moses' mother, according to Bava Basra 123a. But this would be most remarkable, as she would then have to become pregnant when already a generation older than Sarah was when she gave birth at the age of ninety years.

Rashi, in reasoning al pi Bereishis Rabbah, that the spouses of Yakov's sons were twin sisters of other brothers, explains the absence of these wives as meaning that they died before the descent to Egypt, hence the soul-count being seventy. But it is those whose lineages will be part of the Hebrews who leave Egypt during the time of Moses who are listed, the count is by lineages descended from Yakov with whom Hashem will be at that return to Canaan, as mentioned in the psook that leads this listing (46:4).

[This count concerns itself with ancestral lines, not individuals - there are no bondsmen or servants mentioned, and we know that Yakov had left Lavan with his own men. Abraham, it will be recalled, also had men of his household who were not related to him. It defies reason to believe that in addition to the women all being dead, the men of the household had all disappeared. And this is in no way even hinted at in this account.]

And further, if it is meant that the non-listing of these wives must mean that they died before the descent to Egypt, then the absence of any other names leaves precious few women by which further members of the tribe would be born - unless they married Egyptian women, which surely would be far worse than marrying Canaanites, who at least would have spoken the same language. It begs the question how Yakov's boys kept from going native (they remain a separate people until the exodus).

Psook 46:26
"Kol-hanefesh habaa leYaakov Mitzraima yotzei yerecho milvad neshei venei-Yaakov kol-nefesh shishim vashesh"
All the souls belonging to Jacob that came into Egypt, that came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six.

Psook 46:27
"Uvenei Yosef asher-yulad-lo veMitzrayim nefesh shenayim kol-hanefesh leveit-Yaakov habaa Mitzraima shivim"
And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls; all of the soul of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were seventy.

Seventy is a metaphor for a multitude, and parts, as we have seen throughout the tale of Yosef and his brothers, represent the total. The singular mention of 'soul' to which Rashi alludes shows the unity of Yakov's family, and declares them followers of one god (as distinct from the people whom they left behind, and those adjacent to whom they will live in Egypt).

[Pursuant thereto, it is well to realize that 'soul' in this section of the five books is a metaphor for those who believe in the god of Abraham. Not that other humans have no souls, but in the same way that those who deny the resurrection are denied resurrection, and those who deny an afterlife are denied an afterlife, the souls of those who do not follow the god of Abraham are irrelevant to this tale. Soul in the singular is a collective or multiple concept, like Israel, and souls in the plural refers to individuals, like Israel.]


Psook 46:29
"Vayesor Yosef merkavto vayaal likrat-Yisrael aviv Goshna vayera elav vayipol al-tzavarav vayevke al-tzavarav od"
And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a very long time.

He wept excessively, because all that he had forced himself to forget came back to him, and he had so long not been part of the life of his kin.
The Midrash states that Yakov controlled himself at this point by reciting the shema - which, therefore, may be seen as conveying both praise and thankfulness. As you knew.

[This is the second time when someone who has excellent reason to be agrieved falls emotionally on Yakov's neck. Do not mention teeth.]

Psook 46:31
"Vayomer Yosef el-echav veel-beit aviv eele veagida leFaro veomra elav achai uveit-avi asher beeretz-Kenaan bau elai"
And Joseph said to his brothers, and to his father's house: 'I will go up, and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him: My brothers, and my father's house, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me;

He will announce to Pharaoh the arrival of his kin, he will not hide it. But he will prepare Pharaoh also for their arrival.

Psook 46:32
"Vehaanashim roei tzon ki-anshei mikne hayu vetzonam uvekaram vechol-asher lahem heviu"
And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.

They brought their wealth with them, and all that they have - they did not arrive as paupers to be a burden.

[And wealth further implies men in addition to the sons, as wealth attracts attention and cattle require hands.]

Psook 46:34
"Vaamartem anshei mikne hayu avadeicha minureinu vead-ata gam-anachnu gam-avoteinu baavur teshvu beeretz Goshen ki-toavat Mitzrayim kol-roe tzon"
That you shall say: your servants have been keepers of cattle from our youth till now, both we, and our fathers; that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is abhorrent to the Egyptians.'

This reflects the difference between the settled and nomadic populations, and it is well to bear in mind that they worship at different altars, and are thus suspect to each other, because oaths and therefore trustworthiness are paired with religious affiliation, as are feasts and eating together. One does not trust those with whom one cannot dine, and it is well to recall kashrus at this point.

Psook 47:1
"Vayavo Yosef vayaged leFaro vayomer avi veachai vetzonam uvekaram vechol-asher lahem bau meeretz Kenaan vehinam beeretz Goshen"
Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said: 'My father and my brothers, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.'

Psook 47:2
"Umiktze echav lakach chamisha anashim vayatzigem lifnei Faro"
And from among his brothers he took five men, and presented them to Pharaoh.

Five men - as a representative number who can speak for the family. And including Yosef, half of the sons of Yakov.

Why not all?

To show that they speak for each other, not just for themselves or their own households. And with Yosef, they also speak to Pharaoh's benefit. And it is likely that he picked those more likely to make a good impression (Rashi disagrees).

Psook 47:3
"Vayomer Paro el-echav ma-maaseichem vayomru el-Paro roe tzon avadeicha gam-anachnu gam-avoteinu"
And Pharaoh said to his brothers: 'What is your occupation?' And they said to Pharaoh: 'your servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers.'

Psook 47:4
"Vayomru el-Paro lagur baaretz banu ki-ein mire latzon asher laavadeicha ki-chaved haraav beeretz Kenaan veata yeshvu-na avadeicha beeretz Goshen"
And they said to Pharaoh: 'To sojourn in the land have we come; for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, we pray you, let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen.'

Psook 47:6
"Eretz Mitzrayim lefaneicha hiv bemeitav haaretz hoshev et-avicha veet-acheicha yeshvu beeretz Goshen veim-yadata veyesh-bam anshei-chayil vesamtam sarei mikne al-asher-li "
The land of Egypt is before you; in the best of the land make your father and your brothers to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if you know of any able men among them, then appoint them stewards over my cattle.'

Stewards over my cattle - as agents of Pharaoh, and with his patronage.

Psook 47:7
"Vayave Yosef et-Yaakov aviv vayaamidehu lifnei Faro vayevarech Yaakov et-Paro"
And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and stood him before Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.

And Jacob blessed Pharaoh - in greeting. It is still customary to do so.

It is fitting that the leader of the family should be preceded by his sons; Yakov comes not as a servant. And therefore he stood - inferiors or supplicants were expected to abase themselves, but Pharaoh accepts and expects that Yakov stand. Pharaoh honours Jakov (and Yosef) by waving protocol, then shows respect to Yakov by asking about his age.

Psook 47:8
"Vayomer Paro el-Yaakov kama yemei shenei chayeicha"
And Pharaoh said to Jacob: 'How many are the days of the years of your life?'

Psook 47:9
"Vayomer Yaakov el-Paro yemei shenei megurai sheloshim umeat shana meat veraim hayu yemei shenei chayai velo hisigu et-yemei shenei chayei avotai bimei megureihem"
And Jacob said to Pharaoh: 'The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings.'

A courtly exchange, but note that the formality is the politeness of near-equals, a far cry from Yosef's first interview with Pahraoh, which was marked by a to-the-pointness, as of an inferior speaking to a superior. It is well that the boss sees what manner of clan he is giving permission to settle to, and also to show courtesy to his most valued employee.

Jacob in response is self-depreciating, in effect saying "and yet I cannot be compared to my fathers (not only in years but also in other matters) for I have not accomplished what they accomplished".

[How else can one account for his non-germane prolixity?]

Sojournings - having left home as a young man under a cloud, and also having left the home of his maturity, and even having left the home of his old age, Jacob sojourns, not at home anywhere, having the multi-layered sense of home common to nomands and emigrants, where the place of home is an ideal formulation rather than an actual locus. And note that 'home' is ennumerable in years.

Psook 47:10
"Vayevarech Yaakov et-Paro vayetze milifnei Faro"
And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.

Now this, though courteous, is the reverse of the normal situation between a monarch (especially one representing the deities of Egypt) from whom the blessing flows outward (it should emphatically not be read as the brocho we say when invoking Hashem, which is as subject to the Master of the Universe). But the blessing of a man like Yakov was something worth having - a man of potent spiritual power, a numinous entity.

Psook 47:11
"Vayoshev Yosef et-aviv veet-echav vayiten lahem achuza beeretz Mitzrayim bemeitav haaretz beeretz Rameses kaasher tziva Faro"
And Joseph placed his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.

In ancient times the region of Rameses (the land of Goshen) in the northwestern part of Egypt was a part of the Semitic cultural zone, as were Canaan, Padan-aram & Aram Naharein, and, forget not, Ugarit.


Psook 47:13
"Velechem ein bechol-haaretz ki-chaved haraav meod vatela eretz Mitzrayim veeretz Kenaan mipnei haraav"
And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was extreme, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine.

Languished - became weary, because agricultural efforts were to no avail, making a waste of the effort, and because the famine weighed heavily upon the populace, bowing them down.

Psook 47:15
"Vayitom hakesef meeretz Mitzrayim umeeretz Kenaan vayavou chol-Mitzrayim el-Yosef lemor hava-lanu lechem velama namut negdecha ki afes kasef"
And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said: 'Give us bread; for why should we die in your sight, as our money fails.'

Why should we die in your sight - said because Yosef had authority over the food-supply, and by his decision in this matter they would live or die.

Psook 47:16
"Vayomer Yosef havu mikneichem veetna lachem bemikneichem im-afes kasef"
And Joseph said: 'Give your cattle, and I will give you bread for your cattle, if money fail.'

By acquiring livestock for Pharaoh Yosef accomplished three things: effected their survival by a trade, preserved both national resources and the worth of the treasury, and demonstrated the worth of his kin (who were, if able, appointed stewards over Pharaohs cattle).

Psook 47:19
"Lama namut leeineicha gam-anachnu gam-admatenu kene-otanu veet-admatenu balachem venihyouanachnu veadmatenu avadim leFaro veten-zera venichyouvelo namut vehaadama lo tesham"
Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? buy us and our land for bread, and we and our land will be bondmen to Pharaoh; and give us seed, that we may live, and not die, and that the land be not desolate.'

Us and our land - but both already belonged to Pharaoh. Yet by thus trading they are not shamed, and are sustained.

That the land not be desolate - to indicate that the famine will end after the next year, as they will be sustained one more year during which there will be sowing, at the end of which there will be a harvest, and the land will be replenished. But in the meantime, they need to have food.

Psook 47:21
"Veet-haam heevir oto learim miktze gevul-Mitzrayim vead-katzehu"
And as for the people, he resettled them city by city, from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof.

To better preserve the nation. But in so doing, he unified what had almost certainly been a mixture of ethnicities and differing cultures into a nationality, and prevented regional revolts during the years of famine. Only the priests, directly stipended by the king, and thus, like Yakov's kin (stewards of cattle), functioning directly on behalf of the king, were free from resettlement.

It may be said that in thus leaving two potentialy competing hereditary groups tied to the royal house (namely the priestly caste and the Hebrews), with privileges, who where not of serf-class, the scene was set for a rivalry that those who were not priests were bound to lose upon the falling of the dynasty. The new royals would need the priests to sanctify their power, and would see the Hebrews as dubious, not an asset, and probably supportive of the previous kings. And further, the downfall of so large and prosperous a group (as the Hebrews were to become) could not but be advantageous to the priests (and likely the new Paharaoh). But this is speculation.

Psook 47:22
"Rak admat hakohanim lo kana ki chok lakohanim meet Paro veachlu et-chukam asher natan lahem Paro al-ken lo machru et-admatam"
Only the grounds of the priests he did not purchase, for the priests had a portion from Pharaoh, and lived from the portion which Pharaoh gave them; wherefore they sold not their land.

Psook 47:23
"Vayomer Yosef el-haam hen kaniti etchem hayom veet-admatchem leFaro he-lachem zera uzeratem et-haadama"
Then Joseph said to the people: 'Behold, I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh. Lo, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land.

Psook 47:24
"Vehaya batvuot unetatem chamishit leFaro vearba hayadot yihyoulachem lezera hasade uleachlechem velaasher bevateichem veleechol letapchem"
And it shall come to pass at the ingatherings, that you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your households, and for food for your little ones.'

One part to Pharaoh, in part as as a hedge against future famine.

Four parts - for seed (first part), for food (second part), for the servants and workers of the household (third part), and for the children (fourth part).

Assuming that the five parts are ranked in order of importance, starting with Pharaoh, why are the children mentioned last? Why not ahead of the servants?

Because a household is hostage to the goodwill of its servants, who must be well fed in order to consider the benefit of their master as their own.
And children result only once a family is established - if there is no seed, no food, and no farm, then there is little to sustain the children in any case.

A fifth, and four parts - meaning that the populace is tasked hereby as agents of Pharaoh, not as managed property, nor as mere tenants. And thus the basis is laid for the eventual persecution of the Hebrews, because the Bnei-Yisroel are not tied to Pharaoh-the-instution as a citizenry under common circumstance, but as officers over kine in Goshen and to Pharaoh-the-house, as we shall see when a new Pharaoh (of a new dynasty), who has no relationship with Yakov's clan ("knows not Yosef"), comes to power. The bonds between the Hebrews and the former ruling house will no longer hold, and this new Pharaoh will seek to lower these people, who unlike the rest of his subject are not bound to the land and the country in the way that ensures a smoothly functioning society. It will further be to his benefit to dispossess these people - throughout history that has been a potent argument in favour of striking at minorities.

Psook 47:27
"Vayeshev Yisrael beeretz Mitzrayim beeretz Goshen vayeachazu va vayifru vayirbu meod"
And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they acquired property, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly.

As stewards of Pharaoh's cattle they were insulated from the misfortune that the people of the land had endured.

Acquired property - took holdings, and perhaps laid the seed of discontent against themselves, because they presumed, as herdsmen (shepherds, who were "abhorent to the Egyptians"), and did so at a time when Egyptians suffered.


The following article was lifted in its entirety from the Arutz Sheva website. The commentary underneath is entirely my own.

Arutz Sheva:


Between Wars, U.S. Toughening Up on IsraelBy Hillel Fendel

The Bush administration and State Department are blocking arms and technology transfers to Israel, Middle East Newsline reports.
Quoting "Israeli and U.S. sources," MENL reports that the State Department has blocked the transfer of weapons and technology to Israel over the past three months, reflecting deteriorating relations between the two countries since the war in Lebanon in August of this year.

The unofficial suspension of U.S. arms deliveries, beginning in late September, halted the airlift of air-to-ground and other munitions that had been ongoing since the war - despite Israel's continuing need for them. Israel says it needs the equipment in order to replenish munitions and other stocks in preparation for a larger war that might include Syria in mid-2007.

"Nobody will say openly that there is a problem," a government source said. "But there is a serious problem that reflects the marginalization of Israel in U.S. strategy... The administration has not rejected any Israeli request. Instead, the State Department and Defense Department have said that all requests must be examined."

Military cooperation between the two countries has also been hampered in other areas. The State Department recently prevented Northrop Grumman from providing Israel with details of its Skyguard laser weapon, which the company wanted to sell Israel. In turn, Israel suspended negotiations to procure the system, which is designed to intercept short-range rockets and missiles.

Two reasons have been given for the deterioration in relations. One is the perceived Israeli loss, or at least non-victory, in the war with Hizbullah, which has undermined
U.S. confidence in Israel's military and government. In addition, the U.S. may be trying to assuage Saudi Arabia, whose help the U.S. seeks in Iraq. "There's nothing like stopping the weapons flow to Israel to show the Saudis that the United States means business," a diplomatic source told MENL.



This is just the beginning. The weasels who run our country are being suckered by the usual state department apologists into believing that Israel is a liability, and as this administration grows more desperate to achieve a continuation of Republican rule, they might gladly toss friends to the wolves when those friends seem expendable.

The reason offered for a decrease in confidence in Israel's military and government is that Israel did not decisively win the war in Lebanon.

England did not win at Dunkirk either. How does a setback change the underlying issues?

And if that lack of a decisive victory does make such a difference, what are we to think of the failures in Afghanistan and Iraq? What about the war on drugs, which we have been losing ever since the Reagan administration. Evil is not stopped by one victory, nor the world made perfect by one success. The good fight is, in fact, never won.

Setbacks are no reason for cutting and running.
Especially if the cause is just.
And it has been said that we do not allow defeatism to influence us.

The U.S. State Department has for decades fairly consistently taken a pro-Arab stance, despite the many offenses that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have engineered. But in this Foggy Bottom follows the example set for so many years by the British Foreign Office, whose Arabophiles blatantly favoured their smiling clients in the middle-east over those pesky Jews, and the example of France, which has unabashedly endeavored to make itself a bedmate to the Arabs since the oil-embargo.

It may be said that this policy sabotage also attempts to make the Europeans more malleable to the American point of view.
But European approval is more blatantly geared towards self-interest than even the most cynical American policies, and bending towards the rabble is not a moral method of winning friends - who will no doubt note how utterly opportunistic this change in direction is.
Far better to deviate neither to the right nor to the left, but remain steadfast and focused on what is decent, rather than be seen as limply heeding the rabid mob.

National interest should not trump our values; it would indeed have been far more profitable for the US to have remained neutral in several wars and sell materiel to both sides. But we took sides based on moral concommity. And it was right to do so.

Americans choose to imagine that the government represents them.
We are not opportunists. We would wish our elected officials to reflect our ideals.


Errrmm, Dov,

Now that we've had the public flogging, can we please return to our regular broadcast?

Vidui and all that is nice (especially for those with a taste for schadenfreude), but time waits for no man, and the world is still in a state of disrepair.



Tuesday, December 26, 2006


[Being actually a rant in favour of a Black-Panther type approach, not very dissimilar to what the JDL used to do. Don't get mad, get even. And by the way, it is perfectly kosher to wait for someone with a two-by-four in a dark alley near their home. ]

"A few weeks ago a party of some fifty Belzer Chassidic teenage school boys from Antwerp, together with two of their rebbes, were taken on a school outing to Beringen Mijn in Limburg, Belgium. It is a tourist centre based on old, disused mines that recreate the awful conditions of miners during the Industrial Revolution.

When they arrived at the local youth hostel, a group of twenty young adult and teenage Muslims gathered around and started stoning the building, smashing windows and doors and threatening to kill them. The local police were called, who advised the Chassidim that they could not protect them and encouraged them to withdraw and return to Antwerp."

[From a posting by Jeremy Rosen, JROD list]

There were three utterly predictable responses to this outrage.

The socialists defended the response of the local police. The ultra-right were outraged at the behaviour of the Muslims. And the Antwerper Chassidim felt that withdrawing was the right thing to have done.

All three reactions are absolute bollocks.

After determining that the local cops weren't going to do jack, the bocherim should've grabbed sticks and given those thugs a thrashing.
Turning the other cheek is part of Christian ideology (just like progroms, by the way), and has never proven particularly effective. Nor is it observed much by Christians.

What Antwerpers, not only Jews but Gentiles as well, should've done after the bocherim retreated, is visited Beringen the next day and brought a bad attitude along for the ride. Such a response, by it's very unpredictability, would have a cautionary effect on future incidents.

Yes, yes, I know what that would actually mean.

Gentiles all over Belgium would blame all Jews, and confront their Jewish neighbors elsewhere in Belgium accusatorily - and those Jews would not be automatically inclined to say "those were Antwerpeners, your problem is with Antwerp, what the divvil does that have to do with me, drop dead you pillock", but would probably speak out and... condemn... the... act... as... a... chillul... Hashem.

The problem with Jews is that they are always cognizant of the impact their actions may have on other Jews.

On the one hand, there is the imperative to not commit a chillul Hashem - to not by their acts or ethics misrepresent or bring disgrace to the covenant.
On the other hand, there is the knowledge that an offense perceived in Odessa will cause a pogrom in Kiev.

And alas, no one would say "those were Antwerpeners".

The Belzers don't think of themselves strongly that way. The Antwerpener Gentiles don't think of them strongly that way. The Turks and Moroccans in Belgium don't think of them strongly that way. And no-one else in Belgium thinks of them strongly that way.

What the world needs is Chassidic football hooligans.


A little day-dream

A train filled with rowdy Chassidishe yingerleit is stopped several miles out of town. Provincial civic fathers wring their hands and wail "myn hemel, it is the Antwerper Chossids, oh woe", before calling in the riot police from several burgs to defuse a confrontation. There are multiple arrests. The next day the Gazet van Antwerp newspaper demands apologies from those local authorities on behalf of all outraged Antwerpeners, and several lawsuits are filed against police and civic officials.
A snooded mother snarls on television that she is furious, "furious, I tell you, my darling little Dovid was off to enjoy the game with his friends, those cops have unfair praeconceptions, what is this world coming to!?!" The burgomaster of Antwerpen then refuses to extend co-operation to the investigation, declaring it "flawed and biased from the very git-go. And supporters of the Diamantplein Yeshiva soccer team are much better than that bunch from Yesiba De Los Pintos anyhow - at least they're not a bunch of pathetic Rotterdammed losers!"
Two days later, the released Chassidim are welcomed home by the local college students, with bands and banners at the station. Fraternity Gimmel Hey Tav celebrates with marathon shiurim about 'the relevance of the Makabim in contemporary society'.

Why not?

Friday, December 22, 2006


The office has been a battle-zone.

A battle zone strewn with cookies.
Instead of landmines.
Crumbs instead of shrapnel.

We've received food-baskets, with cheese and crackers, cookies, chocolate bonbons, candy canes, caramel corn. Everything from sweet and goo-ie to savoury and high-falutin'. Smoked salmon. Garlic toast nibbles. Peach and pepper spread. And cookies.

This year, a lot of cookies.

Cookies are a good thing.

All crumbly and buttery sweet and chocolatey pecany macademiyi walnuty cashewy goodness......

Makes ya wanna scream.

So here's a video link.

Go ahead, watch it. It's safe. No icky-poo nativity scenes, no fat pervert bastard with a beard fetish, no animatronic reindeer, no appeals for money - charity - peace - what about the kids - sweetness and light. No trolls.

No horrid little children singing the same five sacherine carols off-key in shrill voices on perpetual loop. No horrid over-emoted rendering of jingle bells by some pretentious git whose televised holiday special was universally acknowledged to set a new standard for commercialized vulgarity. Not even that nightmare and cold-sweat inducing troll dirge about the little drummer boy rum tara tum. Nothing at all to do with the season, in fact.

Instead, nearly everybody's favourite celebrity, who has a nice deep voice, singing about something that gives him joy.
Every time the sickening smarm of the season gets to me, I click on this link and let his rich baritone soothe me.

Man, I love the Cookie Monster.


Have you ever wondered what native speakers of Yeshivish do at night, when no one is watching?

They meet anonymously in the dark, and warf textual quotes at each other. They pant and sweat over sources - Rishonim, Achorim, and.... the RAMBAM!

It's very impressive. Awe-inspiring even. All humour aside, these are some impressive brains whose conversations tend to go into a deep left-field.

I'm posting a small sampling below, from the comment thread on a guest-post by ExtraTorah <> on Dovbear's blogs (here:

[Note: for those of you who don't have the stamina, you might want to skip directly to the posting underneath this one.]

We take up the comment thread at the mention of Hillel



It has been suggested that R' Yehuda Hansi, a descendant of David, opposed the Hasmonean accession to Royalty, as they were not of the tribe of Yehuda, which is why Chanuka is not mentioned in the Mishnah at all.
Barzilai Homepage 12.21.06 - 6:54 pm #

oy, always with the politics...
Tzipporah 12.21.06 - 7:04 pm #

"What both camps seem to agree about is the fact that there was definitely a time that the story of the military victory was a more prominent part of Chanukah than it is today. There is a range of positions from a) the military victory was on equal footing with the oil-miracle in the original observance"

No - many believe the oil was not essential to the initial events, which were primarily military victory and rededication of the Temple, but not that they weren't essential to initial observance to commemorate those events.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 8:20 pm #

>It has been suggested that R' Yehuda Hansi, a descendant of David, opposed the Hasmonean accession to Royalty, as they were not of the tribe of Yehuda, which is why Chanuka is not mentioned in the Mishnah at all.

The same R' Yehuda Hanasi that came from Beis Hillel and yet listed Beis Shammai first in all of the mishnayos.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 8:22 pm #

What does one thing have to do with the other? Your mishna history is as bad as your holocaust history (see the kolel job post for this guys holocaust howlers)
po 12.21.06 - 8:28 pm #

Rabbi Yehuda was not from Bes Hillel . Oh that's funny!
Alex 12.21.06 - 8:37 pm #

>The same R' Yehuda Hanasi that came from Beis Hillel and yet listed Beis Shammai first in all of the mishnayos.

Chasam Sofer suggested it. It's hardly some critical, maskilische pshat.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 8:42 pm #

> Rabbi Yehuda was not from Bes Hillel .

Oh that's funny!He was a direct descendant of Hillel.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 9:53 pm #

> What does one thing have to do with the other? Your mishna history is as bad as your holocaust history

Here is the lineage "po"

R' Shimon ben Hillel
Rabban Gamliel Hazaken
R'Shimon ben Gamliel I
Rabban Gamliel
R'Shimon ben Gamliel II
R' Yehuda Hanasi
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 10:00 pm #

po - do you just write insults without even thinking? Did you research it? Just saying that "it is BS" doesn't negate the emmes. Nice try.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 10:01 pm #

Newsflash: What you wrote is polemical garbage put out by non-historians for political reasons. It's not emmes, not by a longshot, which is why calling BS was the perfect response.
Po 12.21.06 - 11:26 pm #

>for political reasons

Not quite.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 11:35 pm #

Oh. So you think they told lies about other Jews and roundly mischarecterized historical events lshem shamayim? I mean come on. That garbage isn't written by historians. It has no citations. Nothing. It's just someone with an agenda spewing.
po 12.21.06 - 11:39 pm #

That lineage of Hillêl is not at all clear. It appears in the mediaeval סדר תנאים ואמוראים, but I can't find it in any earlier source. The boraiso in Shabbos about הלל ושמעון וגמליאל ושמעון, the nesi'im for the last 100 years of the Temple's existence, says nothing about lineage.

Ah, what about Rebbi's statement in yerushalmi Kil'ayim 9:4? (Let us call this source "H", for "humility".):ר' הוה עינוון סגין והוה אמר כל מה דיימר לי בר נשא אנא עביד חוץ ממה שעשו זקני בתירה לזקני דשרון גרמון ומנוניה
Rebbi [Judah the Nasi] was very humble. He used to say: Anything that a person says to me, I shall do, except that which the Ziqné Bethera did for my ancestor; for they removed themselves, and appointed him.

Is this not clearly a reference to the story in Tosefto/Bavli/Yerushalmi Pesachim, in which the Betherides give up their presidency of the Sanhedrin to Hillel? And doesn't this prove that Hillel was an ancestor of Rebbi?

Actually, no. The paragraph is entirely in Aramaic, except the words חוץ ממה שעשו זקני בתירה לזקני. Whenever we have Hebrew and Aramaic intermingled, the Hebrew is usually the original statement, and the Aramaic is usually Stammaitic explanation. Therefore, it seems that the only original statement actually to be attributed to Rebbi is the words "חוץ ממה שעשו זקני בתירה לזקני". It is true that these words seem to have very little meaning on their own, but they are apparently all that was transmitted of Rebbi’s statement.

Furthermore, it is not clear even whether the Stammaitic expansion is referring to our story or not. After all, the only connection between the stam of H and our story as it appears in T is the use of the verb מני in the pi‘el conjugation (in Hebrew) or the pa‘el conjugation (in Aramaic), which means to appoint. H has no mention of Pesach, or even of Hillel. (Surely, there is no reason to identify Rebbi’s “ancestor” with Hillel, unless one has already decided that H is referring to our story.) Even the statement in the stam of H that the Ziqné Bethera “removed themselves” (דשרון גרמון has no parallel in any version of our story.

In b. Bava Metzi‘a, ed. Vilna, 84b (last line) – 85a, we find another Tannaitic passage which apparently mentions the interlocutors of our story as "בני בתירא". Let us call this passage R (for “Rebbi”). The passage in question appears thus in the Vilna edition of the Bavli:

והיינו דאמר רבי שלשה ענוותנין הן ואלו הן אבא ובני בתירה ויונתן בן שאול [. . .] בני בתירה, דאמר מר הושיבוהו בראש ומינוהו לנשיא עליהן. [. . .] ממאי? דלמא [. . .] בני בתירה [. . .] דחזו להלל דעדיף מינייהו. [. . .]
And this [the context immediately preceding in Bava Metzi‘a] is referred to in the statement of Rebbi [Judah the Nasi]: There are three humble people, namely: my father, and Bene Bethera, and Jonathan son of Saul.[ . . .] Bene Bethera— as the master has taught: They set him up as head, and appointed him Nasi over them. [ . . .] How do we know [that these individuals were truly humble]? Perhaps, the Bene Bethera [gave up their position] only because they saw that Hillel was better than they. [ . . . ]

However, all MSS of this passage read "ובן בתירה", and not "ובני בתירא", in both the Baraitha and the ensuing stammaitic discussion. Thus, Rebbi is not referring to Hillel’s interlocutors at all. Rabbinic literature knows of several individuals with the patronymic Bethera, so it is impossible to draw any conclusions regarding the incident, or the individual, to which Rebbi is referring. It is only the stam of R that identifies Rebbi’s “Ben Bethera” with Hillel’s interlocutors from our story-- but the Stam is much later than Rebbi.

There is one more source, besides H, that Rebbi was considered a descendant of Hillel. However, this other source, a passage in b. Horayoth 11b, is just as weak a proof as H. The Horayoth passage reads as follows:

רב ספרא מתני הכי בעא מיניה רבי מרבי חייא כגון אני מהו בשעיר א"ל התם שבט הכא מחוקק ותניא (בראשית מט לא יסור שבט מיהודה זה ראש גולה שבבבל שרודה את ישראל במקל ומחוקק מבין רגליו אלו בני בניו של הלל שמלמדים תורה לישראל ברבים:
Rav Safra transmits [the preceding story] thus: Rebbi asked R. Chiyya: “Should one like me, [who am a Nasi], offer the goat [which Scripture prescribes as the sin-offering of a nāśī in Leviticus 4:22 ff.]?” He responded: “There [in Babylonia, the exilarch has a] scepter; here [in Palestine, I, as Nasi, have a] staff-of-command.” And it is taught in a Baraitha: “Never shall the scepter [שֵׁבֶט] be gone from [the tribe of] Judah [Genesis 49:10]— this refers to the exilarch in Babylonia, who chastises Israel with the rod; nor the staff-of-command [מְחֹקֵק] from between his legs— this refers to the descendants of Hillel, who teach Torah publicly to Israel.

David Goodblatt (in his book The Monarchic Idea, pp. 157– claims that this passage shows that Rebbi was considered to be a descendant of Hillel. However, this implies that the statement of R. Hiyya and the Baraitha following it are connected. Yet the Baraitha is introduced by the characteristically Stammaitic term ותניא, and cannot have been part of R. Chiyya’s statement. (A brief look through Kosovski’s concordance of the Bavli, s.v. ותניא, vol. 33, p. 359, has confirmed my suspicion that ותניא is used only by the stam.) It is possible that the redactor of this passage believed that Rebbi was a descendant of Hillel, and therefore adduced this Baraitha to support R. Ḥiyya’s statement that the word staff-of-command in Genesis 49:10 referred to Rebbi. However, it is also possible that the redactor appended the Baraitha merely by way of association, for it, like R. Chiyya’s statement, associated the word scepter with Babylonia and staff-of-command with Palestine; according to this latter view, the Horayoth passage does not in any way suggest that Rebbi was a descendant of Hillel.
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.21.06 - 11:40 pm #

Holocaust? What Holocaust? You are all LIARS!!!
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 12.21.06 - 11:41 pm #

I'm glad you are here Mahmoud. Denying the holocaust is every bit as irresponsible as blaming it on Jews you don't like. You and anon are two sides of the same coin.
po 12.21.06 - 11:43 pm #

Do you believe the Ramabam (hakdaamh to peeroosh hamishnayos):

אשר נתפרסם מיחס חכמי המשנה, מהם רבן גמליאל בנו של רבי יהודה הנשיא, ורבי יהודה הנשיא בן רבן גמליאל, בן רבי שמעון בן גמליאל הזקן, בן רבן שמעון, בן הלל הנשיא. והוא הלל הבבלי, אשר אליו נסמכה כת מן החכמים האחרונים, ועל דעתו היתה, ונקראת בית הלל. והלל זה הוא מבני שפטיה בן אביטל בן דוד. ואלה השבעה חכמים כבר התבאר שהם מזרע דוד.Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 12.21.06 - 11:45 pm #

po = DB
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 12.21.06 - 11:45 pm #

Gota go make some comments in the press to scare the world. Bye
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 12.21.06 - 11:46 pm #

Your cite has nothing to do with this discussion. And I am not DB. DB would have killed you by now.
po 12.21.06 - 11:47 pm #

Do you believe the Ramabam (hakdaamh to peeroosh hamishnayos):

No. He's far too late to be a reliable independent witness to Talmudic history? Does he even claim that his historical account is anything but derivative?
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.21.06 - 11:47 pm #

> Your cite has nothing to do with this discussion.

That comment was for mar gavriel
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 11:48 pm #

Oh. Well, it was stupid. Relying on the Rambam for ancient history is like relying on Avigdor Miller for holocaust studies, which you have also done.

You seeem like you have a decent brain, though, all things considered. Why can't you understand how stupid your approach is?
po 12.21.06 - 11:49 pm #

Your cite has nothing to do with this discussion.

Sure, it does. Some people on this thread were arguing about whether or not Rebbi had been descended from Hillêl. Therefore, I decided to give an extended quote from an unpublished article that I had written on the topic two years ago.
Anonymous 12.21.06 - 11:50 pm #

Sorry, that (Anonymous 11:50) was I ("that was me").
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.21.06 - 11:51 pm #

Wait, I'm confused-- who is directed comments to whom? And which one was directed to me?
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.21.06 - 11:52 pm #

Relying on the Rambam for ancient history is like relying on Avigdor Miller for holocaust studies...


That is the wittiest thing I've heard all day. Thank you.
The Back of the Hill Homepage 12.22.06 - 12:13 am #

Mar Gavriel - also see Shabbos 15a

הלל ושמעון גמליאל ושמעון נהגו נשיאותן בפני הבית מאה שנה

and Tosafos Avodah Zarah 32a

זה היה רשב"ג הזקן אביו של ר"ג דיבנה שהוא זקנו של רבי

the Rishonim knew what they were talking about.

Based on this, I reiterate what was listed earlier:

R' Shimon ben Hillel
Rabban Gamliel Hazaken
R'Shimon ben Gamliel I
Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh
R'Shimon ben Gamliel II
R' Yehuda Hanasi
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:17 am #

>Relying on the Rambam for ancient history

"ancient history" - or "mesora"?
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:20 am #

> That lineage of Hillêl is not at all clear. It appears in the mediaeval סדר תנאים ואמוראים

Isn't the Rambam an earlier source?
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:26 am #

Rambam (corrected version - diff than above):

מה שידוע מיחוסי חכמי המשנה מהם רבן גמליאל בנו של ר' יהודה הנשיא. ור' יהודה הנשיא בן רבן שמעון בן רבן גמליאל בן רבן שמעון בן רבן גמליאל הזקן בן רבן שמעון בן הלל הנשיא. והוא הלל הבבלי שעל שמו נתיחסה חבורה מן החכמים ההולכים בשטתו, לפיכך נקראו בית הלל, והלל זה הוא מבני שפטיה בן אביטל בן דוד, הנה נתבאר ששבעת חכמים אלו הם מזרע דוד.
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:27 am #

Also see Machzor Vitri 424
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:34 am #

Shabbos 15a

הלל ושמעון גמליאל ושמעון נהגו נשיאותן בפני הבית מאה שנה

Yes, I referred to that source in my exposition above. As I said, the source tells us nothing about LINEAGE. Who says that Shim`ôn was the son of Hillêl, or that Gamli'êl was the son of Shim`ôn I?

Tosafos Avodah Zarah 32a

זה היה רשב"ג הזקן אביו של ר"ג דיבנה שהוא זקנו של רבי

a) That's mediaeval.
b) Nu? That source doesn't mention Hillêl.

Isn't the Rambam an earlier source?

Not sure. But he's still mediaeval.
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.22.06 - 12:52 am #

>Nu? That source doesn't mention Hillêl.

It links Rebbi to R' Gamliel of Yavneh's father R' Shimon ben Gamliel hazaken, who is listed in that Gemara in Shabbos.
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:55 am #

Also, see the Tashbatz (my source for the corrected version in the Rambam) chelek 1 siman 136
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:56 am #

There is a very interesting essay by Rav Schwab on the significance and limits of the scholarly study of history. Those of you who believe in the Mesorah will find it fascinating and stimulating, and those of you who don't will congratulate yourselves for your emancipation. So everyone will have a nice Chanukah evening.
Barzilai Homepage 12.22.06 - 12:57 am #

בגמ' הוא מפורש שאחר הלל נהג נשיאות שמעון וכן נר' מדברי הרמב"ם ז"ל בפי' המשנ' כמו שכתבת אתה ג"כ. וכן בפתיחת המדע. ובנו של שמעון זה שהוא דור ג' להלל הי' ר"ג הזקן שתקן כל אותם התקנו' השנויות בגטין )פ"ד( והוא נזכר בפ"ק דאבות אחר הלל ושמאי ואחריו הי' שמעון בנו הנזכר אחריו שם והוא הי' מעשרה הרוגי מלכות שהרי בזמן החורבן הי' ונשאר ר"ג השני קטן ונהג נשיאות במקומו רבן יוחנן בן זכאי כדמוכח באגד' גטין בפ' הניזקין )נ"ו ע"ב( וזה ר"ג הי' אחי אשתו של רבי אליעזר כדמוכח בפ' הזהב )נ"ט ע"ב( ובפ' כל כתבי )קט"ז ע"א( והוא שהעבירו אותו מהנשיאות לכבוד רבי יהושע בן חנניה והושיבו במקומו רבי אלעזר בן עזריה ובאותו דור הי' ר"ע כדאית' בפ' תפלת השחר )כ"ח ע"א( ובנו של ר"ג זה השני היה רשב"ג המוזכר בכל התלמוד שאמרו )גיטין ע"ה ע"א( כ"מ ששנה רשב"ג במשנתינו הלכה כמותו חוץ מערב וצידן וגו'. ורצו ר' מאיר ור' נתן לביישו ולהעבירו מהנשיאות ולא עלתה בידם וקנסו אותם שלא יהיו נזכרים בשמם בבית המדרש. והעלו לר' מאיר שם אחרים ולר' נתן יש אומרים כדאי' בסוף הוריות )י"ג ע"ב(. ובנו של רשב"ג היה רבי שחבר ספר המשנה כדאיתא בפ' )הבא על יבמתו( ]החולץ[ )מ"ג ע"א ע"ש( והיו קורין אותו רבינו הקדוש כדאיתא בפ' כל כתבי )קי"ח ע"ב( והיה שמו ר' יהודא הנשיא כדמוכח )בגיטין( ]בקדושין[ )ס"ג ע"א( ובפ' )כירה( ]במה מדליקין[ )ל"ב ע"ב( ובכמה מקומות מהתלמוד ומוכח בפ' השוכר את הפועלים )פ"ד ע"ב( שרבי היה בנו של רשב"ג
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:59 am #

Above is from the Tashbatz
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 12:59 am #

It links Rebbi to R' Gamliel of Yavneh's father R' Shimon ben Gamliel hazaken, who is listed in that Gemara in Shabbos.

Nu? So what? I never doubted that Rebbi was the son of רשב"ג (obviously), nor that רשב"ג was the son of רבן גמליאל דיבנה, nor that רבן גמליאל דיבנה was the son of רשב"ג הזקן, nor even that רשב"ג הזקן was the son of רבן גמליאל הזקן.

All that I doubted was that any of them was descended from Hillêl!
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.22.06 - 12:59 am #

A quote from the abovementioned article by rav Schwab zt'l that will ranckle the majority of DB commenters:

Reading the "Bible" without the commentaries of our Sages is like studying astronomy with the naked eye--without the use of a telescope. We are bound to misunderstand everything.
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:03 am #

>I never doubted that Rebbi was the son of רשב"ג (obviously), nor that רשב"ג was the son of רבן גמליאל דיבנה, nor that רבן גמליאל דיבנה was the son of רשב"ג הזקן, nor even that רשב"ג הזקן was the son of רבן גמליאל הזקן.

So you are doubting that R' Gamliel Hazaken was the grandson of Hillel - he might not be the Gamliel mentioned in Shabbos:

הלל ושמעון גמליאל ושמעון נהגו נשיאותן בפני הבית מאה שנה
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:08 am #

You don't believe that the Rambam had a mesora about that?
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:08 am #

So you are doubting that R' Gamliel Hazaken was the grandson of Hillel - he might not be the Gamliel mentioned in Shabbos:הלל ושמעון גמליאל ושמעון נהגו נשיאותן בפני הבית מאה שנה

No no no! I am not doubting that Rabbon Gamli'êl Hazzokên is the Gamli'êl mentioned in Shabbos. I am doubting rather that the list of nesi'im in Shabbos is listing a father-son lineage.
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.22.06 - 1:16 am #

You don't believe that the Rambam had a mesora about that?

About what? Rebbi's descent from Hillêl? Yes, I think that Rambam is basing himself on a mesôro, but that that mesôro does not go all the way back to Rebbi's time, but rather is later, and is based on the confusion regarding the identity of בן בתירה or בני בתירה.
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.22.06 - 1:19 am #

Here's what R' Nissim Gaon says in Berachos 28a (he has a different girsa in the Gemara than we have today):

עשה בשביל כבוד בית אבא, כלומר בשביל הלל הזקן זקני שהי' מזרע דוד

that's R' Gamliel Hazaken speaking - do it for my family's (Hillel's) honor.
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:25 am #

Oops! That was R' Gamliel of Yavneh speaking.
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:28 am #

Anonymous 1:25-- interesting citation from R. Nissim Go'ôn. I'll look it up later. For now, I'm going to sleep.

חדש טוב
Mar Gavriel Homepage 12.22.06 - 1:28 am #

Okay - here's an earlier source (quoted by R' Nissim Gaon) in our Talmud Yerushalmi maseches Taanis:

אמר רבי לוי מגילת יוחסין מצאו בירושלם וכתוב בה הלל מן דדוד
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:31 am #

It's a shame you went to sleep before seeing that Yerushalmi.

Yerushalmi = Chazal
Anonymous 12.22.06 - 1:33 am #


As you can see, this conversation (which resumed this morning, and is STILL ongoing) went into overdrive shortly after dinner time, and continued untill way after midnight.

From which we learn that it is winterbreak, and several yeshivisti are full of beans.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which I can contribute to this conversation.

So I will steal it. Because it is fascinating stuff, and I'm impressed.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


[Note: two errors spotted by attentive readers (one at 4:55 pm, the other at 5:03 pm) have been corrected. Thank you. If anyone spots any other factual errors, pleas let me know. Errors of snarkiness can be debated in the comments. If I like what you say, I'll steal it.]

You guys are so lucky that Yeshiva Chipas Emmess sends out these lectures. Spreading lomdus is a mitzvah, you should be so grateful.

[For the full Yeshiva Chipas Emmess experience, and all the lectures by Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein soll sein gazunt, see here: Go on, click. You know you want to. You lust after wisdom, you beheimah.]

Below, for your pleasure and edification, is the Christmas Drasha of Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein, soll sein gazunt, rosh yeshiva, soll sein gazunter.




Christmas = Nittel. A Russian celebration during which the Cossacks get drunk and drive their sleighs into the wall of the shul next door. Repeatedly, and at great speed. Whereupon they invite themselves in, and continue their celebration with the Rabbi’s liquor cabinet, before borrowing your station wagon for a middle of the night drive to Bayonne.

Nittel used to be celebrated in January, but since the revolution it has been celebrated a few days after the solstice.

Our minhag is to play chess that night - there are so many malicious spirits about on nitel night that we couldn’t possibly lern Toireh or Talmud, for fear that our good friends the Cossacks might come to an accident.

Rabbi Yoichanan Ben Zakai, in a Braisa brought down in Maseches Airuvin, asks: What is the true mitzvah of Christmas? Is it to share the joy, the festivities, the gift-giving, and the spirit of good will towards all men? Or is it to go to a matinee, pay half price, and stay the hell off the street until the goyim sober up?

Yochanan Ben Zakkai = A close friend and chavrusa of Rish Lakish, whom Yochanan treasured because he challenged everything that Yochanan said, testing his logic and his reason till it was watertight – we all need such a chavrusa.

Oh, wait - DTL tells me that was Rebbi Yôhhonon bar Nappohho (Sepphoris, then Tiberias; died in 279 CE), not Rabbon Yôhhonon ben Zakkai (Jerusalem, then Jamnia; died around 80 CE).

[Crap, these Chazalic names are all so confusing! Why couldn't Chazal have nice normal names like Dovbear, or XGH, or Margavriel, or Steg, or Jameel, or Tafka?]

Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai used to say, "If you have learnt much Torah, do not reckon it as merit, because for that purpose you were created."

Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai dictated the Zohar to Rabbi Abba on his deathbed, expiring on the thirty-third day of the Omer (thirty three days after Peysach). On that day, the sun stood still, to give Rabbi Yochanan time to finish, and fire burst out all around the house where Rabbi Yochanan and his talmedim were gathered. With the last word, a brilliant light enveloped the building and Rabbi Yochanan’s soul returned to the Master of the world.

Oh, wait..... that's ALSO some other dude. Shoot, all those names look alike.

The Zohar was written by Shimeon BarYohai, who spent thirteen years in a cave, at the end of which time he probably heard voices. Shimeon was reincarnated by Moishe Ben ShemTov DeLeon, a Castillian charlatan, between 1250 and 1305. His latest incarnation is as Madonna Louise Ciccone (b. 1958), who after a sex-change operation renamed himself Esther.
Beraisa = ‘On the outside’; a statement or argument not included in the Mishna, but of equally ancient ancestry, often written in one of the extra-mishnaic works, such as the Tosefta, the Mechilta, Sifra, and Sifrei.

Often Beraisos are included as annotations or margin notes in Talmudic commentaries.

Tosefta = Supplement; a compilation of the oral law, like the Mishna, and from roughly the same era. It was compiled by Rabbi Hiyya and Rabbi Oshayah, whereas the Mishna was compiled by Yehudah HaNasi (Judah the prince, a scholar descended from Melech Dovid), a leader of the talmidish olam in the second century CE who is accorded such stature that he is also referred to as Rebbi (my teacher) and Rabbeinu HaKadosh (our saintly rabbi).

Mechilta = Two separate books are meant: Mechilta Dhe Rabbi Ishmael, and Mechilta Dhe Rabbi Shimon Ben Yohai. Both are exegetical midrashim on Bereishis.

Sifra = A third century CE commentary on the Mishna, of uncertain authority and authorship.

Sifre = Halachic exegesis on Seifer Bamidbar (Numbers) and Seifer Dvarim (Deuteronomy).

What has come down to us is not the full corpus, parts are clearly missing, and the Talmud references parts which were changed or lost.

Maseches Eruvin = Blendings; second tractate of Seder Mo’ed in the Bavli.

The twelve tractates of Seder Mo’ed are Shabbes (Sabbath laws and Chanuka; #1), Eruvin, (blendings, and permissible Sabbath space; #2), Peysachim (leavening, pascal sacrifice, and the seder; #3), Beitza (egg; food which may be prepared on festivals; #4), Hagiga (feasting; offerings during festivals; #5), Mo’ed Koton (minor times; intermediate festival days; #6), Rosh Ha Shana (New Year; #7), Ta’anis (fasts, and self-deprivation; #8), Yoma (day – Yom Kippur; #9), Sukko (booth – feast of tabernacles; #10), Shekelim (tithing and sacrifice-contributions; #11), and finally Megilla (which is about Purim; #12).

This line of questioning echoes a story of Eliyahu Hanavi, as he faced down the priests of Baal on Har Carmel. As they each brought sacrifices and rejoiced in their Avoidah Zarah, Eliyahu chose to sit on the side and clip coupons, rather than participate. And when it came time to show the power of the Aimishteh, Eliyahu chose to consume all the priests with fire, rather than pay to provide refreshments for everyone.

Eliyahu HaNovi = Elijah the Prophet. The name Elijah translates as ‘my god is lord’. His nickname, from his place of origin, is ‘the Tishbite’ (haTishbi). A rabble-rouser and bad-influence, you don’t want your children to play with him.

His period of exile in the wilderness is oddly echoed in the tale of John the Baptist, who was fed by crows while living in the wilds near the river Jordan (as, indeed, much of the Kristic mythos is a conscious echoing of well known themes from Hebrew scripture - as Koheles says, there is nothing new under the sun, and all is vanity).

Eliyahu HaNovi left the world of the living in a fiery chariot, pulled by flaming horses, which came from the sky to lift him up. It is said that when the Moshiach comes, his imminent arrival will be announced by the return of Eliyahu, for whom we fill a cup and leave a space each peysach, and for whom a chair is provided at each bris, in the hopes that mirtzeshem it should happen soon and in our lifetime.

According to the RAN, this story captures the essential dilemma of ambivalence we all feel at this time of year. All year long we function as a part of external secular society, with our own traditions and peculiarities accepted in an air of viva la differance. But at Christmas time we are not Battul BeShishim; we stand out as the minority that we are.

The Ran = Rabbeinu Nisim Ben Rav Reuven Girondi (d. ~1380), whose supercommentary on the mefarsh of the Rif (Rabbi Yitzhak El Fassi, 1013 – 1103) is printed in the back of the Gemoro, along with the Rosh (Rabbi Asher Ben Yechiel, 1250 – 1328). Every student encounters these three with regularity, and learns to appreciate the interplay of their reasoning and thought processes.

Battel be shishim = Annulled by (as less than one part in) sixty, a point at which contamination of food is considered negated, EXCEPT during peysach. During Peysach, any contamination, no matter how minute, disqualifies the substance thus polluted, which must be discarded as unfit.
Assimilation can only go so far – comes a point when we have to say ‘include me out’. We are to be separate, bein ha goyim – that’s why country clubs and retail pricing exist.

According to some authorities, the use of the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ betrays one’s status as a secular humanistic Sodom-and-Gomorah lifestyle adhering liberal pinko commie (meaning, in this context, a Jew) – so it is recommended that instead of wishing someone a happy holiday, you merely grunt sincerely.

If someone tries to press the issue by insisting ‘merry Kratchmatch’, you may respond with a heartfelt ‘bah humbug’ (a neutral and traditional sentiment uttered at this time of year).
Or more grunting.

The minority that we are = Why is this said? Because Krutchmitch celebrates the birthday of Mithras, a Persian prophet, at the end of six days of orgies in Rome marking the solstice (it used to be called Saturnalia). Even if the followers of Yushka had not opportunistically grabbed the holiday as soon as the previous users had left, we would feel a little put off – the Persians tried to whack us several times, then the Romans tried to exterminate us.

Perhaps because this strange idolatrous Perso-Roman amalgam is NOT our first choice of inclusionary celebrations our ancestors ignored the advertising campaign and refused the free action figures.

Either that or tacky plastic figurines in red bekeshes remind us too much of those neighbors we can’t stand, despite having our ears to the wall all day Saturday listening to the game on their television, the heathens, and grunt sincerely whenever they greet us.

Mithras = The saviour deity of a syncretist Graeco-Persian mystery religion which competed with Christianity for the disaffected vote. Mitra was the intermediary between mortals and Ahura Mazda (the benevolent creator of all that is good), and protected adherents against Ahriman (the evil spirit). His sect was wide-spread in the Roman military, appealing to loyalists of Rome as well as mercenaries striving for honour. Very Roman.
The Roman military, in mittn drinnen, were psychopaths.

It is remarkable how many correspondences there are in the Kristic haggadah to Mithraist themes: three wise guys, a star in the east, divinely ‘inspired’ pregnancy, a mother of utter purity, miraculous childhood, disappearance for several years, disputations with priests, and a miraculous ascent, to name just a very few. There is nothing new under the sun, and all of this is utter vanity.

One could certainly think of Yushkism as a syncretic Hebreo-Persian corollary to Mithraism, a version of Zoroastrianism more tailored to stiff-necked rebels against Rome than to the troops sent to deal with uppity Jews of whatever stripe. Which it may very well have been, given the times and the tendency towards cultural fusion, contamination, and overlapping idolatries.
But no wonder so many Roman legionnaires converted – they were very confused, takkeh.
And psychopaths.

Did I mention that Koheles says there is nothing new under the sun?

It is davka because of all the avoideh zara going around in this period that Eliyahu Hanovi, being mamesh filled with bile, had the prophets of Baal put to death after besting them in a magic-competition on Mount Carmel.

Yet, we needn't abandon this Yuntif entirely, given our myriad connections to it:

- Jesus was, of course, a Jew. Indeed, a medrish in Matthew Rabbah refers to him using a cell phone in a movie theatre and taking Mary Magdolyn on a shidduch date for drinks at the local Marriot;

"Jesus was, of course, a Jew" = Wow! Am I surprised (I thought he was a min, or even a koifer ba ikker). And what a coincidence that he was born on the same day as Mithras!
Maybe they just couldn’t remember the exact day, and arbitrarily decided that a popular heathen feast-day was as good a day as any to celebrate a birthday – no work, lots of parties to go to, and a good old-fashioned bean-feed to cap it off.
Lots of bishel akum, some wine, and some really hot shiksas.

Of course, the fact that he didn’t graduate from yeshiva and make a good shidduch was also an excuse for high drama. That, and his evident denial of the fundamentals (ikkerim) of his faith (emunah). Amongst which are the non-mortality, the indescribability, and the indivisible unity of Hashem.

So imagine, if you will, a woman named Miriyam wailing: "I have no son! He’s dead, do you hear me, dead!"[I would’ve thought it much better to have her echo Yakov’s lament, when he was told that Yoisef had snuffed it; "Alas, I will go down to She’ol to my son, in utter sorrow" (Seifer Bereishis, Parshas Vayeishev (and he settled), psook (verse) 37:35).
But then, I’m not in the business of inventing a religion, and heck, she may have been told that there was no body and no proof - ‘have-us a corpus, or not have-us a corpus, that is the question’.]

Alternatively, kvelling over him besting his teachers at arguing Talmud-Torah.

And that rumour of Mary Magdalene being a prostitute sounds exactly like what a disappointed mother would say about that shiksa her son was seeing. Mary Magdalene was probably blonde.

It is said that when the children of Chassidim and Misnagdim marry, both parents mourn for the dead.

How much more so Kratchmachnikim and people.

Nearly two millennia later, and we’re still hearing about that woman’s ‘precious’ son.


- Christmas tree lights are a modern day expression on the ancient Germanic festival of lights commemorating the winter solstice. This, in itself, is partly reflected in the lighting of the Chanukah candles;

Ancient Germanic festival = Bringing dead pine-trees into the house is a recipe for disaster – there’s already a fire-hazard with the flame under the blech left on full bore over shabbes, ober mit an etz-kretshmatsh, dos gonze hoys volt gehn in flammen oyf.

Yule, by the way, the ancient Germanic festival referenced above, had Indo-European roots – hence the somewhat similar celebration in ancient Persia, also at the time of the solstice.
And, like peysach, Persians still celebrate the beginning of spring as the new year, and serve a fruit and nut compote as a festive dish, along with several symbolic foods in a dining ritual, reminiscent of the charoses we eat during chag ha aviv and the tiefe symbolizmuz of our own seder.

Might that mean that our yomim tovim are mere echoes or mirrorings of the chagim ha goyim?

Absolutely not!
And chasvechollileh!

The Zohar asserts that certain times of the year are mesugal that certain events have to happen then.

Pesach happened when it did because at that time of the year we have the shtarke tendenz of cheirus. Mimeila yetzios mitzrayim, b'hechrach.

At the end of the summer, the Shaarei Rachamim are especially open, and that time is mesugal for teshuvah – hence Yoim Kippur and the other Yomim Noraim.

This time of year normal people have a tiefe teivah for Chinese food.

- Christmas is a celebration of...RETAIL. According to the RAMBAM's Mishnah Toirah, one of the key Mitzvois Asei SheHazman Gerammah is the raising of ALL prices by 20% between December 10th and December 24th. Boruch Hashem for Kratzmach -- this Yuntif pays for my kids' Yeshivah tuition! Indeed, all of my talmidim are encouraged to contribute
to a Christmas fund for families who cannot afford toys, the Kratzmach Gemach, so that Jewish merchants will not suffer because the Goyim are in the middle of a recession.

The end of the civil year is mesugal for retail. We are zoiche to benefit from that, as indeed iz dos gonze oilam, baruch Hashem. It is an ungezetste tzeit, what better way to clear your karma than by buying geshenkn fur di gonze mishpoche – especially if you lack the kidooshah and nemonus to withstand advertising.

And with winter broken, the entire family can help in the store. A great yuntif.

- There is a famous Mishnah that states that just as Roish Hashanah is the New Year for the universe and Tu BiShvat is the New Year for trees, Christmas is the New Year for big, fat, bearded white guys. And I know many Rabbanim in our community who should therefore celebrate this Yuntif too.

Roish Hashanah, Tu Bishvat = Two new years festivals – Roish Hashanah takes place in autumn, Tu Bishvat in winter.

There is a famous Maiseh SheHoya about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. In an effort to raise money for vodka for his Chasidim one year, he dressed up as Santa Clause and stood in front of the local Bloomingdales, pretending to be from the Salvation Army. Who should walk by, but his archenemy, the Satmar Rebbe.

Lubavitcher = Adherents of the Chassidic lineage founded by Rav Shneur Zalman (1745 – 1813) of Liadi, a student of the Maggid of Mezzeritch Rav Dov Baer (1710 – 1772), who was taught by the Ba’al Shem Tov Rabbi Yisroel Ben Eliezer (1698 – 1760).

Satmar Rebbe = The Krulyer rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum (1887 – 1979), a descendant of the Yismach Moishe (Rav Moishe Teitelbaum, 1759 – 1841), who became Rebbe of Satmar in Hungary in 1929, and rebuilt Satmar Chassidus in the U.S. after WWII.

"So, Menachem-Mendel," the Satmar Rebbe declared in a loud voice, "Your movement truly has evolved into another religion."

Evolved into another religion = An accusation first made by the misnagdim about Chassidus. But who listens to them? They have charismatic rebbes? Teevee preachers? Madonna?

"Not at all," the Lubavitcher Rebbe calmly replied. "We simply never miss an opportunity to find joy. What do you say you and I do a couple of shots, sing a niggun, and make-up underneath the mistletoe?"

Niggun = A song with words of no particular meaning, or great particular meaning, often having a supra-textual meaning not immediately clear from the lyrics. Very Chassidish – when you’re happy, sing and dance. When you’re sad, sing and dance. Song and dance, in that they lift the spirit out of the ordinary, are a form of devotion.

Cynics say that a Rebbe with scant talent for mussar (didactic moral Torah lecture) will instead urge his chossidim to sing niggunim around the shabbes-tish. Yet others have said that only a great tzadik can compose an effective niggun, because only such a man can instill a complete sermon into pure emotion.

It is also said that a great Rebbe will infuse a mitzvah-tanz with all that is in the Torah, and perform with great spiritual grace at the chassunah, whereas an unexceptional Rebbe merely infuses it with the meaning of the Sears Catalogue, and crashes into the kallah.

You had to be there.

The Satmar Rebbe was so upset by the confrontation that day, he insisted that all of his followers use reindeer meat in their cholent that shabbos.

"When Father Kratchmatch’s son was born in the garage, native herdsmen came around with reindeer, and the Kingston Trio with da ganja, da spleeve, and da bong. Tiny Tim roasted a lamb, and they all got shikker on eggnog because there was no rum at the inn."

You wouldn’t believe the superstition and bobe-meises my youngest comes home with this time of year! Almost as if she was tinoke she nishba bein ha goyim. Urrrghh!

Cholent = A very dangerous dish made with meat, lentils, onions, spices, which is stuck into an oven on low over Friday night, so that, as is a mitzvah to us, we may partake of a hot meal and acid-reflux on Saturday afternoon. Only those zoiche to be nifter are excused, everybody else gets a shot of Pepso-Bishmoil.

Meanwhile, the Lubavitcher Rebbe raised enough money to keep his Chasidim drunk through the end of the month of Tayvais. That night, the Reboinoisheloilum came to him in a dream. "Rebbe," the Aimishteh said, "Have I not given you enough to celebrate in Yiddishkeit? Why are you and your followers embracing another religion?"

Embracing another religion = Did someone say that the Rebbe was the Moshiach Ben Dovid? But there are also those who hold that the Rebbe was Moshiach Ben Yoisif. Both beliefs are meshune, to say the least.

Ober voss iz mit a nomen? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

"But Hakkadoshbaruchhu," the Lubavitcher Rebbe responded, "we have not strayed from Yiddishkeit. It's not as if any of my Chasidim will ever embrace the concept of resurrection or anything like that."

Resurrection or anything = Instead, some doubt that he died. But thousands of others attended the funeral, and heard the hesped. There is scant room for doubt, though there’s always room for denial and years and years of therapy.
Damn’ hippies.

So we have a lot more in common with Christmas than we originally thought. We should therefore neither ignore the holiday nor treat it with disrespect. Rather, we should treat it as the money making opportunity that it truly is.

Sell them dreidels.

Ah Gutten Yuntif, You Mechutziff.

Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein
Yeshiva Chipas Emmess




Note: Rabbi Pinky Schmeckelstein soll sein gazunt is the Rosheshiva of the East Coast campus, the Rabam is a notorious drunkard in San Fra...., errrmm, I mean administers the West Coast campus, located in beautiful downtown San Francisco. Inquire about tuition. Takka mamesh a mitzva, sey gazunt. Bli neder.

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