Thursday, July 28, 2016

The covenant of peace for Pinchas

After Pinchas kills Zimri and Kozbi, Hashem declares (25: 11-12):
11Phinehas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen has turned My anger away from the children of Israel by his zealously avenging Me among them, so that I did not destroy the children of Israel because of My zeal. יאפִּינְחָס בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן הֵשִׁיב אֶת חֲמָתִי מֵעַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקַנְאוֹ אֶת קִנְאָתִי בְּתוֹכָם וְלֹא כִלִּיתִי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּקִנְאָתִי:
12Therefore, say, "I hereby give him My covenant of peace. יבלָכֵן אֱמֹר הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם:

On the name, Rashi says, 
Phinchas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen: Since the tribes were disparaging him, saying, Have you seen the son of Puti, whose mother’s father [Jethro] fattened (פִּטֵּם) calves for idols, and who killed a chieftain of an Israelite tribe? For this reason, Scripture traces his pedigree to Aaron. — [Sanh. 82b, Num. Rabbah 21:3, Mid. Tanchuma Pinchas 2] פינחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן: לפי שהיו השבטים מבזים אותו, הראיתם בן פוטי זה שפיטם אבי אמו עגלים לעבודה זרה והרג נשיא שבט מישראל, לפיכך בא הכתוב ויחסו אחר אהרן:

My grandfather points out that, undoubtedly, the tribes knew that Pinchas was the grandson o f Aharon. Their point in naming him for his mother's father was to relate his actions to that side of the family. The declaration here confirms that his actions stemmed specifically from his father side, the trait of Aharon HaKohen. 

He reference the Sforno who says on the Parashas Vayechi,48: 16  "וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק Yaakov names his father and grandfather but not Terach and Nochar because the righteous are not linked to the name of their wicked ancestors. The opposite is true as well.  As it says in Sanhedrin  52a that wicked people are not linked to their righteous fathers but to their wicked ancestors. Accordingly, what Yaakov expressed in his blessing was that his granchidlren be worthy of being linked to their righteous ancestors. 

My grandfather then suggests that this is what underlies the promise of  בְּריתִי שָׁלוֹם. Shalom is the outstanding characteristic of Aharon who was ohev shalom verodef shalom [a lover and pursuer of peace]. Pinchas' action in this case was truly for the sake of true peace for klal Yisrael, to prevent disunity of the nationand to establish peace among the people and between them and Konenu, for the name of Hakodesh Baruch Hu is Shalom.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The whole is greater

For Parshas Balak, I’ll share two pieces from my grandfather’s sefer because one is very short.
Yaakov and Yisrael
When Bilam prophetically blessed Benei Yisrael, he included an exclamation that is incorporated into daily prayers (24:5): Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, mishkenotecha Yisrael. How good are you tents Yaakov, your dwelling places, Yisrael. The doubling here is poetic, but it also has to be significant, as the Torah does not typically use the device of kefel hainyan bemilim shonot. My grandfather suggest that Yaakov is the name for the people of Israel in galus [exile]. For that reason the living quarters ascribed to Yaakov are tents, which are temporary dwellings. Yisrael refers to the people of Israel on their own land, which is why it uses a different terms that connotes greater permanence.

Not the whole picture
Earlier in the parsha, of course, Bilam was making his best effort to curse Bnei Yisrael, trying to set up a vantage point from different places. The text in  22:41  says he set up where he could see katzeh ha’am [a section of the nation].  He did not have a view of the entire nation from that vantage point, but only a part of them. 

The Ramban explains that Bilam sought a place from which he could see the people whom he wished to curse. But he could not see the entire encampment because they were too spread out. The tribes set themselves up in four groups of three, one in each four directions of the compass. Balak suggested that even if he can’t get a vantage point from which all the people would be visible, he can take a partial view to curse those who fall within his sight. When they shifted from one to the other, Balak reasoned that it is possible that there were righteous people in the sections that they saw whose merit prevented the curse from being uttered.    

According to the Psikta Zutra, though, Bilam did succeed in getting a vantage point from which he had a view of the entire nation.  He reads the text as “vayar misham ketzeh ha’am, klomar kol ha’am mikatze” [he saw from that place, from that corner, all the nation]. That contrasts with the view from the vantage points that follow, which only allowed a partial view that Balak takes him to as descibed in  23:13
יגוַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו בָּלָק לְךָ נָּא אִתִּי אֶל מָקוֹם אַחֵר אֲשֶׁר תִּרְאֶנּוּ מִשָּׁם אֶפֶס קָצֵהוּ תִרְאֶה וְכֻלּוֹ לֹא תִרְאֶה וְקָבְנוֹ לִי מִשָּׁם {Balak said to him, "Come with me to another place from where you will see them; however, you will see only a part of them, not all of them and curse them for me from there.}

That is why there the view is described as efes katzehu to indiciates that it is one from which he cannog obtain a comprehensive view -- vechulo lo tireh.  Balak reasoned that the entire nation would have special protection due to zchus avos. However, that merit of the whole would not necessarily extend to a part.

Consequently, Balak was either resigned or hopeful, depending on which interpretation one follows. According to the Ramban, the real goal was to get all in view, one that was not possible. So Balak said what amounts to, if we can’t get all the targets, we can  at least get some of the enemy in the range of fire of the cures. But according to Psikta Zutra it was possible to see them all, but the defenses of the whole with full merit of zuchus avos would render the encampment impregnable. Therefore, he suggests that taking them in sections would be a better strategy.

My grandfather points out that in addition to the zchus avos for the entire nation, there is also the positive impact of seeing Mi keamcha Yisrael goy echad ba’aretzt.” When one is struck by that, it is impossible to curse them. However, it is possible to consider the possibility of  cursing the lowly ones on their  own, and that is signified by the term efes katzehu.

Reasoning from the general to the particular, my grandfather suggests the same principle applies to Chazal’s injunction in Pirkei Avos “vehevey dan eth kol ha’adam lekaf zchus” [give all of man the benefit of the doubt in judgement].  The kol is a reminder to take a comprehensive picture – not just of the bad. When we see the bad alone, it is difficult to find anything positive to apply to judgement. But if we see the whole of the person and his behavior in general, we can find a way to extend the benefit of the doubt for the particular bad deed that needs it.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Shades of White

Must a bridal gown be snow white for a formal first wedding? 
Consider the range of shades one sees in white pearls

It doesn't have to be. The dress can be stark white, natural white, ivory white, or some variation of white with color accent.
The whitest of whites is only possible to achieve in synthetic fabrics that can take the process that leaves the suggestion of a clean blue undertone to the fabric. The stark white color often compliments is most flattering on women with darker complexions. Those with lighter complexions look better in softer whites.

Natural white is also sometimes referred to as “diamond” or “silk,” the whitest shade possible for silk and other natural fibers. In photographs, this shade will be indistinguishable from stark white.
Cream may either be a natural white or a slightly darker shade that is usually called “eggshell” or “ivory.”
 Ivory is a very popular choice  for brides today, but do hold a swatch next to your face to be sure it is the shade you want. Ivory generally has a yellow undertone, which can flatter fair complexions, but can also make some look sallow.                                                                   
Champagne a pink undertone for an off-white shade that can lend a rosy effect to your complexion. You can look at fabrics of a light “rum,” a color that is also very popular now for the gowns of the sisters and mothers of the bride and groom.

 While white still prevails as the bridal color, some of today’s wedding gowns feature accents of color in the trim and on the sash. In selecting the color, be sure you see a swatch of the actual fabric to be used in the shade you want. Colors can look different in different fabrics, depending on their sheen and sheerness. As white doesn’t necessarily mean the color of snow, be sure to choose the shade that is most flattering to your complexion. The shade may also take on different nuances depending on the fabric of the gown.

The long and short of veils and headpieces.

Your Crowning Glory
Headpieces sit on the head differently, so pick one that will complement the shape of your face and hairdo, as well as the style of your gown.  While one of the options includes a hat with a veil attached, that look is not currently popular with brides who are generally choosing headpieces that work with their hair style. Style options include:
Backpiece: any headpiece that attaches to the hair at the back. It is often a bow or cluster of flowers.
Bun Holder or Wrap: a  small to medium sized circular headpiece that wraps around a bun. Often decorated with beads or lace.
Butterfly: a partial headband that arcs over the top of the head but does not extend all the way to the ears.
Combs: while they serve a function to hold a veil down, they can also serve in lieu of a headpiece when trimmed with jewels, flowers, or feathers; close together teeth will hold more securely than widely spaced ones.
 Fascinator: a concoction of feathers, ribbons, beads,  flowers, or a combination of them attached to a headband, clip, or comb.  This style of  headpiece is not confined to bridal occasions, but in white with a birdcage veil attached, they top off a sophisticated bridal look.
Headband: usually a design of flowers and/or pearls going all across.
Jeweled Pins & Sticks: an alternative to an actual headpiece; these hair ornaments can embellish your updo or add some sparkle to a standard hairstyle with pearls, flowers, or crystals.
 Juliet Cap: a small cap that covers the crown of the head; it usually is done for a retro look. 

Tiara:  a crown, which can feature crystal, pearls, flowers, or any combination of the above, sits on top of the head.

Vines: a wire base adorned with jewels or flowers produces a headpiece that is flexible enough to wrap around an updo or to frame the head with hair worn down.

Wreath of Flowers: this is worn on the crown of the head, some may extend to the forehead, while others sit further back. Wreaths are a popular adornment for flower girls, too. A kallah could also skip the headpiece and add a blooming touch with flowers woven into her hair or with a flower comb for a less formal look.  You can make these out of fresh flowers, but then you would have to have great confidence in your florist getting the measurements exact, as you will only get to ascertain that the finished product is a perfect fit on the wedding day instead. Silk flower wreaths can look perfectly lovely and offer more peace of mind.
Veil Styles

 Angle: a version of birdcage, it features a length of 11”-13” of netting  set at the side near the ear to covers both eyes with a subtle angle.
Birdcage: the same style of veil as you would see on some elegant retro hats, it incorporates a net fabric that wraps close to the head and ends above the chin or even above the nose. The veil could be attached to a pillbox hat or a feathered or flowered comb.
Blusher:  short over-the-face veil that just grazes the chin.
Cathedral:  measures 108” for a dramatic sweep.
Chapel:  Measures up to seven feet from the crown of you head, so that up to two feet will trail behind you.
Elbow Length: will show off any detailing at the waist of the gown. This style is especially flattering to petite brides less than 5’4” tall.
Fingertip: 38-45” in length --falls to the hip line.  Choose the length according to your height, so that it won’t fall to the point just above the knee.
Flyaway:  multi-layered veil that just brushes the shoulders, up to 18” long. Though it is considered less formal than longer veils, it may be the choice for a bride who wants the back detail of her gown uncovered..
Fountain: a slight pouf at the top of the head cascades down to shoulder or elbow length, shoulders also may be referred to as a bubble shaped.
Mantilla: Spanish style, lace trimmed veil that is secured directly to the head without an additional headpiece by a comb.
Monarch or Regal: 120”long, for a really royal effect.
Princess: veiling that is approximately 60" in length. It comes to about your knees. Waltz or Ballerina:  at 81” falls to just above the ankles, the point at which a tea-length dress will fall.

Veils could be finished and embellished in various ways. 
Cut Edge:  has nothing added, also known as Raw Edge
Embroidered Edge also known as Pencil Edge provides a subtle definition.
Pleated Veil: designed by folding the netting to create "pleats" to create a dimensional look.
Satin Edge: available as a rounded cord that measures approximately 1/8" wide or in Satin Ribbon in a variety of widths.
Scalloped Edge: features an embroidered edge stitch to the veil whose edges have been cut in a rounded scallop pattern.
Scatter Embellishment: pearls, rhinestones, or crystal distributed throughout the veil.  You can also opt to have pearls or rhinestones strung along the edge.
Soutache Edge: 1/8" wide flat braided satin band that gives effects similar satin cord.
 You can add color either by selecting a sheer veil fabric with a whisper of color or by selecting a colored trim for the edging.  The one rule that holds is to select the gown first and then a veil that works well with its style, color, detailing, and train length.  Also be sure it’s not too complicated to get the front veil on for the bedecken [veiling].  You can choose a veil style and then attach it to a headpiece or select a headpiece with a veil already attached.
Where to shop for the headpiece?
If you shop for a headpiece in a salon, you are likely to spend more than you have to.  Even the rental charges often exceed what it would cost you to buy if you know where to shop. While I would not recommend that anyone but a truly skilled seamstress attempt to sew a wedding gown, that is not the case with headpieces, which can be very easily put together.  Check out the headpieces, veils, and kits for customizing in craft supply stores like Michael’s.  You know that gorgeous headpiece you saw in a salon for $200, you can duplicate it for a fraction of the price without any sewing skills. 

Then of course, you can borrow.  A friend or relative who got married recently may have her headpiece just sitting in the closet.  She will probably be happy to lend to you because, unlike dresses, headpieces do not require expensive dry cleaning or alterations for each wearing.   Many gmachs will return the full deposit paid when the headpiece is returned undamaged.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bread and snakes

photo from
This Shabbos I thought of an interpretation of the episode of the nachash nanechoshes. The episode begins with Bnei Yisrael's  expressing disgust about the mann (21: 22): וְנַפְשֵׁנוּ קָצָה בַּלֶּחֶם הַקְּלֹקֵל.

Hashem then sends venomous snakes who bit them. The people confessed there sin and appealed to Moshe who appealed to Hashem who told him to fashion a snake and put it up on a pole. 

What is the connection between complaining about mann and being subjected to snake bites?  In what way did the punishment fit the crime? 

 A number of different answers can be found among the commentators, including references to the orginal nachash who is condemned to eat dust of the earth, but  this is the one that occurred to me:

The nachash was also told וְאֵיבָה | אָשִׁית בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ

(Bereishis 3:15)15And I shall place hatred between you and between the woman, and between your seed and between her seed
4 verses later Adam is told the consequences of the sin for himself:  he would have to labor for his bread. bezeat apecha tochal lechem  בְּזֵעַת אַפֶּיךָ תֹּאכַל לֶחֶם.

Bnei Yisrael complained about the mann, the Heavenly bread that could be eaten without the labor of planting, cutting, winnowing, grinding, kneading, and baking entailed in the bread we normally eat. They wanted a more standard diet with earthly bread. Consequently, Hashem told them that they would also get the rest of that package deal. They would no longer get divine protection from the very natural danger of snakes bite.

For a take on bread as the symbol of human work, see

Friday, July 15, 2016

Order of importance or of action

After Bnai Yisrael complain about the lack of water in Parshas Chukath, Hashem instructs Moshe (20:8)
קַח אֶת הַמַּטֶּה וְהַקְהֵל אֶת הָעֵדָה אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם וְנָתַן מֵימָיו וְהוֹצֵאתָ לָהֶם מַיִם מִן הַסֶּלַע וְהִשְׁקִיתָ אֶת הָעֵדָה וְאֶת בְּעִירָם

My grandfather focuses on the last part of the instruction -- to give water to the people and to their livestock. He cites the Torah Temima who cites the Magen avraham on what Chazal said in Gittin 62a. It is prohibited to eat before given one's animals to eat. But that only applies to food. With respect to drink, the peson comes first.  We find evidence of that halacha in the way Rivka responded to Eliezer's request for water. She offered to him first and then to the camels.  The question is: why do they not bring proof from this verse? 

My grandfather suggests that the order offered here does not necessarily prove the halacha as the people are mentioned first because they are of primary importance, and the miracle is performed for them. 

He offers other examples of directives given in order of importance rather than chronology, as in the case of Hashem telling Moshe to carve the second set of luchos. Devarim 10:1
פְּסָל לְךָ שְׁנֵי לוּחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים וַעֲלֵה אֵלַי הָהָרָה וְעָשִׂיתָ לְּךָ אֲרוֹן עֵץ
 "Hew for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones and come up to Me onto the mountain, and make for yourself a wooden ark.
Rashi says: ואמר לי פסל לך, ואחר כך ועשית ארון, ואני עשיתי ארון תחלה, שכשאבוא והלוחות בידי היכן אתנם
He said to me, “Hew for yourself [two tablets],” and afterwards, “make for yourself a [wooden] ark.” I, however (see verse 3), made the ark first (Tanchuma 10), because [I considered that] when I would come with the tablets in my hand, where would I put them?

In the comman, the object of primary importance comes first even if another step has to be done before it.  That is why the proof of the halach comes from Rivka who was concerned only with the practical nature of the actions. 

Related post:

Friday, July 08, 2016

Individual and collective blame

After Korach's instigation, Hashem warns Moshe and Aharon to separate from the group because they will be consumed.  They then appeal to G-d not to assign collective blame, saying, (16: 22)
 הָאִישׁ אֶחָד יֶחֱטָא וְעַל כָּל הָעֵדָה תִּקְצֹף
if one man sins, shall You be angry with the whole congregation?

My grandfather asks, how could they have questions G-d's judgment? Do we not accept that His is the ultimate justice even if we fail to understand it?  He refers to Ramban on verse 21 who asked a similar question, "and  this is the manner of those who plead for mercy -- to lighten the sin from the whole nation in attributing it to the individual who is guilty for causing it." 

My grandfather continues to say, that certainly it did not occur to Moshe and Aharon to cast aspersions on the justice and decress of Hakodehs Baruch Hu. Rather, their approach is similar to  Avraham's argument when pleading for mercy for Sdom in Bereishis 18: 25

Far be it from You to do a thing such as this, to put to death the righteous with the wicked so that the righteous should be like the wicked. Far be it from You! Will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?"

כהחָלִלָה לְּךָ מֵעֲשׂת | כַּדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְהָמִית צַדִּיק עִם רָשָׁע וְהָיָה כַצַּדִּיק כָּרָשָׁע חָלִלָה לָּךְ הֲשֹׁפֵט כָּל הָאָרֶץ לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט:
As Rashi, based on Midrash Tanchuma, explains it 

חלילה לך: חולין הוא לך, it is profane for Your Name to destroy the righteous along with the wicked.

In truth - emes le'amitho - according to the Heavenly reckoning, everything is executived with perfect justice. It is only from the limitations of human perspective that it can appear imperfect. in seeing what appears to be the same treatment for the righteous and the wicked, which is why Avraham employed the kaf hadimyon  in saying כַצַּדִּיק כָּרָשָׁע. That false appearance is what concerned Avraham.

Likewise here, even though everyone who doubted in their hearts or who refrained from countering the rebellion was actually guilty. However, as that more passive form of sin is not visible to others, the recognition of the masses would be that only one man sinned, and all were punished. 

related post:

Friday, July 01, 2016

Really nice, but: the Meraglim's report

Send for yourself: According to your own understanding. I am not commanding you, but if you wish, you may send. Since the Israelites had come [to Moses] and said, “Let us send men ahead of us,” as it says, “All of you approached me…” (Deut. 1:22), Moses took counsel with the Shechinah . He [God] said, “I told them that it is good, as it says, ‘I will bring you up from the affliction of Egypt…’ (Exod. 3:17). By their lives! Now I will give them the opportunity to err through the words of the spies, so that they will not inherit it.” - [Midrash Tanchuma 5]שלח לך: לדעתך, אני איני מצוה לך, אם תרצה שלח, לפי שבאו ישראל ואמרו (דברים א, כב) נשלחה אנשים לפנינו, כמה שנאמר (שם) ותקרבון אלי כלכם וגו', ומשה נמלך בשכינה. אמר אני אמרתי להם שהיא טובה, שנאמר (שמות ג, יז) אעלה אתכם מעני מצרים וגו', חייהם שאני נותן להם מקום לטעות 

For this week's parsha, my grandfather quotes Rashi (copied above) and then points out that Ramban says that according to that view, one would have to say that moshe chata [erred ] in this instance, as he admitted that it was good in his eyes  וַיִּיטַב בְּעֵינַי הַדָּבָר? (Devarim 1: 23) He also questions what did the meraglim do wrong if they were sent on this mission to report what they did see?  Surely, they weren't expected to lie. 

For the first question, he answers that it was relatively good, as in the lesser of two evils. As we see from the Rashi's interpretation of the suggestion to send  meraglim in Devarim 1:22 
And you approached me-all of you:: in a state of disorder. But further on (Deut. 5:20-21) it says, “You approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders, and you said, Behold [the Lord, our God] has shown us [His glory and His greatness].” That approach to me was proper-young people respecting their elders, sending these before them. Here, however, you approached me all of you, in a state of disorder, the young pushing aside their elders, the elders pushing aside their heads.ותקרבון אלי כלכם: בערבוביא, ולהלן הוא אומר (דברים ה, כ - כא) ותקרבון אלי כל ראשי שבטיכם וזקניכם ותאמרו הן הראנו וגו', אותה קריבה היתה הוגנת. ילדים מכבדים את הזקנים ושלחום לפניהם, וזקנים מכבדים את הראשים ללכת לפניהם, אבל כאן, ותקרבון אלי כולכם, בערבוביא. ילדים דוחפין את הזקנים וזקנים דוחפין את הראשים:
My grandfather also says that he saw the Ohr Hachaim say, if Moshe had not given in to them in this case, they would have rebelled in a way that would have proved more chaotic than the meraglim.

On the question of what was the chet of the meraglim who appear to merely be fulfilling their mission, my grandfather answers: they switched the order of the mission. Moshe told them first to see the land and what it is, as Rashi says: 
what [kind of] land it is: Some countries rear strong people, and some countries rear weak [people]; some produce large populations and some small populations. — [Mid. Tanchuma 6]את הארץ מה היא: יש ארץ מגדלת גבורים ויש ארץ מגדלת חלשים יש מגדלת אוכלוסין ויש ממעטת 
That was the primary mission; the secondary one was to note the quality of the land, if it is good or bad, fat or lean.

The purpose of this order was that they should be matchilin begnut [begin with the bad new] and finish up with the praise [or good news].  That fits with what Rashi say on verse 17:
Go up this way in the south: This was the inferior part of the Land of Israel. This is the custom of merchants; they show their inferior goods first and afterward display their best. — [Midrash Tanchuma 6]עלו זה בנגב: הוא היה הפסולת של ארץ ישראל, שכן דרך התגרים מראין את הפסולת תחלה ואחר כך מראין את השבח:
But they shifted the order, beginning with the praise of the fertility of the land and ending with the negative report:

27They told him and said, "We came to the land to which you sent us, and it is flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.כזוַיְסַפְּרוּ לוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ בָּאנוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר שְׁלַחְתָּנוּ וְגַם זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ הִוא וְזֶה פִּרְיָהּ
28 אֶפֶס כִּי עַז הָעָם הַיּשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ וְהֶעָרִים בְּצֻרוֹת גְּדֹלֹת מְאֹד וְגַם יְלִדֵי הָעֲנָק רָאִינוּ שָׁם
28However, the people who inhabit the land are mighty, and the cities are extremely huge and fortified, and there we saw even the offspring of the giant.

In doing so, they revealed their evil intention. The sin lies not just in saying the word "אֶפֶס," as the Ramban says. Rather it was the order of presentation, for the last thing is the one that leaves the strongest impresion.
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