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Thursday, January 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew, Chayim Yaakov Bulka of Yerushalayim on his Bar Mitzvah for which I have made the intercontinental trek. I do believe this marks the very first time that the shtikle is sent out from Eretz Yisrael. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka and Young families including the proud great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.

 

After a lengthy discourse at the burning bush, HaShem instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to appear before the elders of B'nei Yisrael and proclaim in HaShem's name, pakod pakadti eschem, I have surely visited/remembered you. With this simple introduction, the elders would listen to Moshe and he would proceed to come before Paroah and begin the redemption process. However, Moshe contends that B'nei Yisrael will not believe him and will claim that HaShem never appeared to him. HaShem then proceeds to give Moshe three signs to use in front of B'nei Yisrael. The first is to turn his staff into a snake. The second was to place his hand in his bosom. Upon removing it, it became afflicted with tzara'as and turned white as snow. After placing his hand inside once more, his hand returned to normal. If they would not believe in the first sign, they would believe in the second. If they would not believe even the second sign, then Moshe was to take from the waters of the Nile and pour them onto the ground at which point they would turn to blood. (3:17-4:9)

 

Moshe was originally told that all he would need to say is pakod pakadti eschem, etc., in order to achieve the trust of B'nei Yisrael. According to the well-known midrash, based on a pasuk at the end of last week's parsha, there was a tradition passed on from Yoseif that this specific phraseology was a code that would only be uttered by the ultimate redeemer of B'nei Yisrael. This was all Moshe really needed. However, since he showed a lack of faith in his nation's trust, he was required to prove his validity through these signs. Why three, though? What was it about the second sign that made him more believable than the first? What advantage did the third have over the previous two?

 

The first sign is a rather simple one. On the surface, there seems to be little significance to this "trick." Perhaps, this was meant as a simple proof that Moshe Rabbeinu possessed special powers.  At a certain level of desperation, this might have been enough to gain the trust of the people. But Moshe had to do more. The second sign had more symbolic significance. When one is trying to prove his powers to the masses, it is unconventional to inflict harm upon oneself. However, what Moshe was proving to B'nei Yisrael with this sign was that he was prepared to put himself in personal danger for the sake of the people. In this, Moshe was proving not only his extraordinary powers but his quality as a leader. A true leader is one who not only takes credit for the success of his followers, but is prepared to sacrifice his dignity, and perhaps even his life, in taking responsibility for their failures. Indeed, the end of this week's parsha is only the first of many instances in which Moshe Rabbeinu exhibited this aspect of leadership.

 

Finally, if these two signs still were not enough, the third sign would divert the nation's attention to a different aspect of the issue at hand. The Nile was the lifeline of Egyptian agriculture and an object of worship in and of itself. Turning it to blood symbolized the first step towards the destruction of this evil regime. The combination of these three signs would prove unequivocally that Moshe Rabbeinu was imbued with special powers and sent by HaShem to lead B'nei Yisrael to their long-awaited redemption.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikduian: Dikduk Observations on Shemos by Eliyahu Levin
Daily Leaf: 

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Friday, January 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

Yesterday, 12 Teves, was the 12th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joseph Schechter of Ner Yisrael. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yoseif ben Eliezer Z'ev.

 

When Yaakov blesses Yoseif and his children before he blesses all his sons together, he tells Yoseif (48:22), "I have given you an additional shechem, more than that of your brothers." Rashi offers two interpretations of the word "shechem." He explains, not without adequate support from other pesukim in Tanach, that the word "shechem" means portion. In halachah, the first-born son receives a double portion of the inheritance. Instead of Reuvein being the beneficiary of that privilege, it was granted to Yoseif as both his sons received a portion in Eretz Yisrael. The other explanation offered by Rashi is that this is a reference to the city of Shechem. In reward for his toil in assuring his father a proper burial, Yaakov granted the city of Shechem to Yoseif for burial and as an extra portion of land for the inheritance of his descendants.

 

In sefer Yehoshua (21), we are given an exhaustive list of the different cities that were designated for Kohanim and Levi'im. Among the cities designated for Levi'im was Shechem. Additionally, we are told in the previous perek that Shechem was a city of refuge for accidental killers. That being so, of what significance is this gift to Yoseif if his descendants would not ultimately settle in that city?

 

The gemara (Makkos 10a) presents a similar difficulty with a different city. Chevron was another city that was designated for Kohanim as well as a city of refuge. However, we are told (Shofetim 1:20) that Chevron was given to Caleiv ben Yefuneh as decreed by Moshe Rabbeinu. Abbayei's answer is a single word, parvadaha, the origin of which is the subject of some discussion. The essence of his response seems to be that the fields and courtyards around the city were given to Calev. Perhaps this answers the above question as well. Although Yoseif's descendants may never have settled in Shechem itself, the fields and courtyards were available to them and this was indeed a significant gift for Yoseif.  (Unfortunately, today, the inhabitants of that city are not descendants of Yoseif by any means.)

 

Chazak, chazak, venischazeik!

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Thursday, January 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

Today, 5 Teves, was the 42nd yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Israel Frankel, a"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.

Before sending his brothers off to inform their father that he was still alive, Yoseif hands out gifts to each of his brothers (45:22). Each one received clothing but to Binyamin, he gave 5 times the amount of clothes and three hundred silver coins. The gemara (Megillah 16a-b) is puzzled by this gesture: "Can it be that Yoseif would stumble over the very same misjudgment that caused his father so much grief? After all, it was the extra garment that Yaakov gave Yoseif which caused the jealousy amongst the brothers and lead to the current predicament." The gemara goes on to explain that Yoseif was alluding to the story of Purim.

I have always found this gemara difficult to understand. There is a very distinct difference between Yaakov's treatment of Yoseif and Yoseif's treatment of Binyamin. All of the brothers were equally Yaakov's sons. There was no reason for him to favour one over the other. That is why Yoseif's preferential treatment caused jealousy. But the other brothers were only half-brothers to Yoseif. Binyamin was the only brother with whom Yoseif shared both a mother and a father. Surely any favouritism shown towards him is easily understood and should not cause any further strife.

Sure enough, Maharsha on this gemara is bothered by the very same issue. He explains that Yoseif's doling out of gifts was meant to reassure the brothers that he harboured no resentment against them for selling him. Although the intentions behind the extra gifts to Binyamin were certainly legitimate, they could have easily been misconstrued. Binyamin also happened to be the only brother with absolutely no involvement in the sale of Yoseif. Had the brothers seen this as the reason behind Yoseif's actions, it would have completely defeated the purpose.

The lesson here is clear. It is not sufficient to consider whether one's actions are right or wrong. One must carefully consider how those actions may be perceived by others. Perhaps it is fitting then that Yoseif's direct descendants are directly involved when the Torah teaches this listen more explicitly, (Bemidbar 32:22) "vihyisem neki'im meiHaShem umi'Yisrael," spoken, amongst others, half of the tribe of Menasheh,

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon / Dikdukian: Can you count to 70?
Dikdukian: Pain in the Neck
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Ram'seis
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Vayigash by R' Eliyahu Levin

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com


Friday, December 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

I have always found the text detailing the birth of Menasheh and Efryaim (41:50-52) rather intriguing. We are told that two sons were born to Yoseif before the onset of the years of famine. Perhaps the second one was just before the years of famine, but the first would have been a considerable number of months before then, at the least. Admittedly, this is not a very strong question for a number of reasons. We are then told the names that Yoseif gave his sons and the reasonings behind each. I cannot recall any other instance where we are informed in detail of the birth of two children simultaneously. The pasuk does not state that a son was born to Yoseif, he named him Menasheh and then he had another whom he named Efrayim. Rather, we are told that two sons were born to him.

 

This has always led me to believe that Efrayim and Menasheh were actually twins. Sure enough, in the sefer Seder HaDoros, it is indeed stated that this was the case. It would certainly explain how both sons were born just before the years of famine. It would also explain Yaakov's apparent difficulty in discerning between Efrayim and Menasheh. Indeed, it is stated that Yaakov's eyesight had deteriorated. But an older son would tend to have differing features from his younger brother. They were still young enough that one might have expected there to be a height difference and Yaakov shouldn't have needed his sight to determine that. But if they were twins and were approximately the same height (and perhaps similar appearance) that would explain everything.

 

A number of years ago, I was explaining the various historical episodes referenced in Maoz Tzur when it occurred to me that there is a chronological anomaly in the order of the verses. The third stanza relates the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the crowning of Zerubavel after 70 years of exile (which is of course also referenced in the haftarah we read on Shabbos.) However, the next stanza summarizes the story of Purim which, of course, predated the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. 

 

The gemara (Yoma 9b) is comparing the merits of the generations that saw the destruction of each Beis HaMikdash. The consensus seems to be that the fact the Beis HaMikdash has not been rebuilt, in contrast to the relatively short initial exile of 70 years, is proof of the greater merit of the earlier generations.

 

We are taught (actually Yerushalmi in this same perek): "kol dor she'eino nivneh b'yamav, ma'alin alav k'ilu hecherivo," any generation in which it is not rebuilt, it is considered as if they have destroyed it.

 

It would seem that the responsibility for bringing the Beis HaMikdash back would lie in the hands of the subsequent generations in exile. Yet, the gemara seems to tie it back to the generation in which it was destroyed. I suppose one support for this could be that the prophecy of the 70-year exile was already given to Yirmiyahu (29:10). The gemara must understand that it was due to the merit of the generation of the destruction that an expiry was put on the ensuing exile from the very beginning, whereas as no such favour was granted the second time.

 

Since apparently, it was the generation of the churban, on whose merit the Beis HaMikdash was so speedily rebuilt, the verse in Maoz Tzur actually belongs before the story of Purim as it was put in motion well before.


Have a Chanukah samei'ach and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)

Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes

Dikdukian: Be Strong

Dikdukian: Just Do It!


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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com

Friday, December 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

This week's parsha begins by developing the theme that shapes the next few parshios - Yoseif's dreams. There are two very distinct differences between Yoseif's first dream and his second. The first dream involves 12 sheaves of wheat while the second, in addition to the 11 stars, involves the son and the moon. Yoseif's parents are represented by the sun and the moon in the second dream but they are not at all represented in the first dream.

 

The second dream involves all of the subjects bowing down directly to Yoseif himself. In the first dream, Yoseif and his brothers are present. However, it is not Yoseif being bowed down to nor is it his brothers who are doing the bowing. It is their sheaves of wheat bowing down to his.

 

It seems that much of the discussion and analysis of Yoseif's dreams and how their prophecies are fulfilled centers around the second dream more than the first. Before sefer Bereishis is complete, we do in fact see the dream come to fruition. What about the first dream? What does it mean? When was it fulfilled?

I have heard it suggested that the first dream was a foreshadowing of the brothers' first visit to Egypt. None of the parents was present and the brothers were not "in their glory," nor did they recognize Yoseif, which is why they are represented by sheaves. But I find that approach unsatisfactory since the brothers, Yoseif and the sheaves were present in the dream. Why could it not have been a dream with just sheaves?

 

I do have a suggestion of my own which I am led to by the distinct differences in the dream mentioned above. First, as mentioned above, the lack of representation of Yaakov or any mother figure suggests that whatever the fulfillment of the dream was, they were not present. Furthermore, the fact that it is their sheaves doing the bowing to Yoseif's sheaf implies that the revelation pertains not to Yoseif and his brothers personally but rather to their progeny. Considering this, I suggest that the prophecy might refer to the reign of Yeravam ben Nevat, the evil architect of the separation of Malchus Yisrael and of course, its first king. While he did not rule over all of Israel, his exploits certainly had a profound impact on the entire nation.

 

A reader suggested the following support for the first approach:

Sheaves seem to imply wealth or sustenance rather than progeny. At first glance, it would seem that these dreams are foretelling the meetings of Yosef and his brothers when they first come to Mitzrayim.  The respect that they gave to Yoseif was not for his being Yosef (they were unaware), but rather for his being the source of sustenance.  Their sustenance was reliant (subservient) to his generosity with the food.  That may be the implication of the sheaves bowing to his sheaf rather than the brothers bowing to Yosef.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)

Dikdukian: Naaseh Neis (Chanukah)


Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, 
www.weeklyshtikle.com

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com

Saturday, December 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

At the beginning of the parsha, Yaakov sends messengers to Eisav and briefly explains his current situation. He states (32:6) that after his time with Lavan, he now has cattle, donkeys and sheep. Rabbeinu Bachye suggests that usually the sheep – tzon – would take precedence in a list of different types of animals. However, Yaakov specifically had them mentioned last because it was tzon – the goat –  which was the vehicle by which Yaakov managed to swipe the blessings that Eisav was to receive. He didn't want to put any focus on the sheep and anger Eisav further.

 

However, later, (32:15) when Yaakov prepares the gifts for Eisav, it seems that the goats are on the forefront. Rabbeinu Bachye, however, makes note of this on that pasuk. He explains that when he initially sent the messengers, it was before his heartfelt supplication to HaShem. However, after the prayer, he felt a surge of confidence and he no longer had any fear of facing Eisav. This confidence was manifest in his putting the goats first. Instead, he was making a statement to Eisav that if he wishes to do battle, he will not succeed because he received the berachah that granted him dominion over Eisav.

 

This analysis of the goats provided a new insight into an intriguing breakdown of the exact number of goats sent, which is addressed in this blog post. While it explains the number of goats sent, it begs the question why only the goats were sent in that exact number. Now we may understand that there was a particular sensitivity with the goats and that's why they were sent in an amicable number.

 

Have a shavua tov..

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Appearances

Al Pi Cheshbon: Goats and Amicable Numbers by Ari Brodsky

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Friday, December 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

A number of years ago on Simchas Torah, when I finally got my hakafah, I was holding my daughter. I had no choice but to hold the sefer Torah in one arm and my daughter in the other. As I carried them both around the bimah a friend came up to me and said, "I now understand the meaning of Levi's name."

 

When Levi, Leah's third son, was born, she said (29:34) "hapa'am yilaveh ishi," this time my husband will accompany me. When Leah had but one son, she was certainly capable of tending to his needs on her own. Even when the second was born very soon after, she was still plenty capable. After all, if she had two arms, she could hold two babies. However, once the third was born the babies outnumbered the arms. Leah couldn't possibly take care of the three boys on her own. Certainly, it would be necessary at this point for her husband to lend a hand. She therefore named him Levi.

 

It was seeing me with my two hands full and the inability to handle anything else that inspired my friend to come up with this interpretation of Leah's words. And, as a nice follow-up to that story, we were blessed that year with another girl, our third child.

 

Now, while this interpretation might have been the product of spontaneous inspiration, there is actually quite a precedent for it among the commentaries. It is apparently found in Chizkuni and Alshich as well as R' Chaim achi haMaharal in Igeres Hatiyul, Chelek haPeshat.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Wordsthatsticktogether

Dikdukian: From his Sleep

Dikdukian: Complete it

Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule

Dikdukian: Different Types of Kissing

Dikdukian: Come on, People - Part II

AstroTorah: Did Yaakov Leave the Solar System by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: Yaakov's Lesson on Zemanei HaYom by R' Ari Storch


Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com