Dedicated by Michael and Liz Muschel in loving memory of Sara ben Reb Yechiel Mechel Muschel, for her Yartzeit on 23 Cheshvan. Born in 1927, she hailed from Veretzki, Czechoslovakia, was sent to Auschwitz in 1944, where her parents were murdered. She survived and went on to become Rebbitzen to a world famous educator, while building a beautiful Jewish family, enjoying Nachas from children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She also rose to become an acclaimed nursing home administrator, cited by NY State for her honorable ethics and rectitude.
This women's class was presented on Tuesday Parshas Toldos, 28 Cheshvon, 5780, November 26, 2019 at the Ohr Chaim Shul, Monsey, NY. It is one of those seemingly bizarre and absurd Talmudic tales. The king and queen—they were from the Hasmonaean dynasty, ruling during the Second Temple era—sat and debated which food is preferable, the sheep or the goat. The king said, “Goats are better.” The queen said “No! Sheep are better.” They decided to seek the judgment of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest of the Temple, because of his familiarity with these animals which regularly served as sacrifices. The High Priest was the man who cooked and consumed the most lamb and goat in the entire Jewish world; he would be the expert. They summoned the Kohen Kadol, Named Yissachar, who came from the town of Barkaei. He insolently waved his hand in a gesture that demonstrated disdain to the king. How can the king even consider such a foolish idea that goat meat was superior, said the High Priest, when the daily communal sacrifice was brought from sheep? Yissachar was arguing, if lamb was not superior to goat meat, why would G-d ask for a daily feast of lamb, rather than goat? The king was furious at the insult and the denigrating wave of the hand. The king declared: Since this man, the High Priest, has no reverence for the king, his right hand should be chopped off, making him unfit to serve at all in the Holy Temple (the Temple service was done primarily with the right hand). The Kohen Gadol bribed the executioner to cut off his left hand instead. When the king found out, he had his remaining hand chopped off as well. The Talmud then goes on to explain how the High Priest erred. For both the Torah and the Mishnah intimate that, from the Torah perspective, sheep and goats are equal. What are we to make of this apparently absurd tale? Should we laugh or cry? Is this a humorous tale? A parable? Or a reflection on the monstrous behavior of the monarchs of yore? And how about the story itself? Do kings and queens have nothing better to do than argue if lamb chaps are superior to goat meat? Anyhow, how can you argue about the taste of a meal? As we say in Hebrew, “Al taam viraich, ain mah lhitvokaich.” You cannot argue objectively about taste or smell. And what are we to make of the Kohen Gadol’s strange answer? The king and queen were ostensibly arguing about physical taste; how does that get resolved from the daily sacrifice in the Temple? Did the High Priest of Israel really believe that G-d consumed and enjoyed the meat of the offerings? It was the Maggid of Mezrich, Rabbi Dov Ber, one of the greatest spiritual masters of Judaism, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov, who suggested that this story served also as a parable for life. The debate between the king and the queen about sheep and goat represented the debate between Isaac and Rebecca about their sons Esau and Jacob, in this week’s portion. Yet, as fate would have it, the student of the Maggid who transcribed this teaching of his master, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horowitz from the city of Lantzut, Poland, known as the Seer of Lublin, forgot the details. It was he, and the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who suggested what the Maggid might have meant. It provides us with one of the most empowering lessons on educations and leadership in our world today.