Friday, June 28, 2013

Pinchas Was The Grandson Of Yisro?

This parsha-related dilemma has been bothering me for years. Rashi, citing Sotah 43A, writes in one of his first comments on last week's parsha that Pinchas was a grandson of Putiel, otherwise known as Yisro, the kohen Midian and father-in-law of Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Tribes scorned him: "Have you seen this one, whose mother's father [Jethro] fattened calves for idolatry!

As someone who is a stickler for stuff like continuity (lehavdil: woe be unto those who retcon older, established comics/books/movies/whatever for newer material), I have tried to figure out how this works out timeline-wise with Pinchas' age and yetzias Mitzraim.

We know that Pinchas wasn't annointed as a kohen like his father, uncles, and grandfather, because he was an already living grandson of Aharon, as we see in Shemos 6:25, which first introduces Pinchas and his lineage while Bnei Yisrael are still in Mitzraim:

 And Eleazar Aaron's son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites according to their families.

I'm pretty sure the switcharoo which exchanged the first born sons (who were meant to be the kohanim) with Aharon's family occurred shortly after the Chet Ha'Egel. This incident with Bilam and Balak took place much further along, right before Bnei Yisrael were to enter Eretz Canaan.

So that rules out the possibility that Elazar married one of Yisro's daughters who he might have brought with him (along with Tzipora, Gershom and Eliezer) when he arrives at Bnei Yisrael's camp in the Sinai Desert. There is also no textual evidence of him bringing any other family with him.

When Aharon and his sons were annointed kohanim, by extension, future as-of-yet-unborn descendents would also become kohanim. Bummer for Pinchas who was already alive and thus missed out.

However, thanks to his heroic act of spearing Zimri and Cozbi, HaShem grants him the bris shalom, as well as kehunah.

Yisro, when we meet him in the Torah, lives in Midian, where Moshe marries Yisro's daughter, Tzipora, when he ends up spending time there after fleeing Mitzraim.

There is another possibility as to when and where this marriage took place - in Egypt itself.

Per Sanhendrin 106 A, Yisro, Iyov, and Bilam were advisers to Pharaoh at the time he was trying to figure out what to do about the "Jewish problem." Bilam said to throw the baby boys into the Nile, Iyov said nothing, and Yisro ran away.

Hence, it stands to reason that Yisro left some family behind in Egypt - though I have no idea who else besides this daughter that Elazar marries would have remained after he fled from Pharaoh - perhaps his original wife...?

Thus, it would seem that the most logical thing is that Elazar married a daughter of Yisro from his that time spent time in Egypt as one of Pharaoh's advisors.

This would make Elazar's wife a bit older than him. I'm not going to go into age differences here, but we know of several famous Tanach couples where the woman was much older than the man... like Moshe's own parents.

Incidentally, it's neat that both Moshe and his father-in-law fled from Pharaoh's wrath and ended up in Midian.

In conclusion, I think Elazar married a daughter of Yisro who was born in Egypt and left behind after her father fled Egypt.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Two Tips To Prepare For Tisha B'Av

I heard these ideas from Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich:

Rabbi Yaakov Emden (I think that's who he quoted) wrote about the idea of why this particular galus that we are currently enduring has lasted for so long - nearly 2000 years. While many have attributed this to our people continually being mired in the sins that caused the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash - namely Sinas Chinam, lack of proper respect, failing to say the brachos before we learn Torah - Rabbi Emden said that there is a different reason why we have caused the exile to endure for such a lengthy period of time.

We don't mourn properly for that which we have lost.

To a degree, this seems to be understandable, since none of us ever experienced the Beis Hamikdash when it existed, and therefore it is hard for us to find personal meaning in connecting to the mourning practices that we observe during the 3 Weeks and on Tisha B'Av itself.

Rabbi Freundlich offered two ideas that could be very helpful in making these forthcoming 3 weeks productive in preparing for Tisha B'av - if the Moshiach should not arrive before then (which I hope he does).

1) Often, most people don't open the Kinnos until the night of Tisha B'Av and thus have very little familiarity with it - on top of the fact that we all get exhausted several hours into the morning reading of Kinnos. Rabbi Freundlich suggested that everyone take 5 minutes a day during these 3 weeks to read a Kinnah, understanding the English available to us - and thus utilize these tools that our sages have given us over the centuries to connect to a proper sense of mourning and understanding of our loss.

2) Quite a few of our 19 brachos in Shemonah Esrei discuss our yearning for Hashem's salvation, the ultimate redemption, the arrival of the Moshiach, and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. It would behoove all of us to take a closer look at these brachos and give them a greater focused attention as we say them and think about their meaning.

In particular, he suggested the sentence from Es Tzemach Dovid - "Ki lishu'ashcha kivinu kol hayom" - "For Your salvation we hope all the day." Meditate on what it means to really desire HaShem's yeshua, and how we can actively hope and pray for the final redemption.

I think both of these ideas are very helpful in transforming these 3 weeks from a time of complaining for lack of shaving and music, to a time period of meaningful reflection wherein we properly utilize the time Chazal has emphasized is a time frame to focus on mourning what we have lost - and what we hope to have - G-d willing soon and in our lifetime - once again.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Shalsheles & The Maccabeats - Lemaan Achai - Brand New Song!

Shalsheles was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, Jewish music groups/artists when I was in high school. The Maccabeats are one of my current favorite Jewish music groups. Now, they've come together to perform a song together!

The song IS A Capella, so for anyone who listens to vocal only music during the 3 weeks, enjoy!