Going Frei, Oy Vey!
The kvetch is an art form practiced by many, mastered by few. To perfect the perfect kvetch takes more than a few years in complaining school.
Every kvetcher worth his salt is intimately familiar with the most crucial and fundamental of all kvetching tools, the two-syllabic wunderkind: Oy Vey!
But where does it originate?
The word oy is used frequently in the Torah, and vey is seen throughout the Talmudic and Midrashic texts.
As well, the Book of Proverbs asks: “Mi ‘Oy’? Mi ‘Avoy’?” – “Who [cries] ‘woe’? Who ‘alas?’” – and then comes the Aramaic Targum and translates the word oy as vey.
That brings us to the Torah reading for this week, where we find someone yelling Oy Vey! This man was an Egyptian who evidently spoke fluent Yiddish. This woebegone individual was none other than the King of Egypt, the Pharaoh himself.
In the Pharaoh’s expression of woe – of oy, of vey – lies a profound message for us about freedom, what it means to be a spiritual light in an oft-dark world, and what it means to be a Jew in today’s day and age.
Two Midrashic texts – comparing the Jews to princes and pearls – explain why Pharaoh was so distressed as to yell ‘Oy vey!’ and teach us a profound lesson for our personal lives.