The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, December 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my rebbe and Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Harav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l (Yaakov Moshe ben Refael Nissan Shlomo) whose yahrtzeit is tomorrow.

As Rivkah Imeinu endured her difficult pregnancy, she began to ask herself questions. She ponders (25:22) "im kein, lama zeh anochi," if so, wherefore am I thus? Or, more simply, why am I doing this? Rashi explains that Rivkah was questioning why she had yearned and prayed for this pregnancy. On the surface, this certainly seems like doubt on her part. But I believe the end of the pasuk shows that not to be the case.

 

Rivkah is teaching us a great lesson in dealing with the emotions of doubt. Inside, she was certainly feeling that this pregnancy was not "what she bargained for." Her approach, however, was not to give up and to declare her efforts a lost cause. Rather, she knew that certainly there was a purpose in all of this, a reason for her to endure and fight on. This is evidenced by her immediate visit to Sheim to seek guidance from HaShem. Rivkah teaches us that everything has a purpose. As we face trials and tribulations in our lives, whatever feelings we may have emotionally, our first course of action must always be lidrosh es HaShem, to search for a higher purpose. It is perfectly legitimate to ask, "Why?" The challenge is to make sure that it is not a rhetorical question.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Yaakov and Eisav's Interesting Birthdays 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

Friday, November 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

For some weeks now, I have been searching for some parsha­-based lesson to glean with respect to the tumultuous political season that has recently concluded here in the United States, with as little actual politics as possible. I felt this would be apropos:

 

    When Avraham requests an audience with Efron HaChiti, the pasuk (23:10) recounts "And Efron was sitting in the midst of B'nei Cheis. " Rashi here comments that the word yosheiv, sitting, is in the present tense, is written without a vav. Without vowels, it may be read yashav, in past tense. This, suggests Rashi, implies that he only now sat amongst them. The term "sitting amongst them" implies a position of stature. Here, Efron had just been appointed judge.

 

    This explanation of Rashi should sound rather familiar. Just one week ago we had almost the exact same comment from Rashi with regards to Lot. When the angels arrived, (19:1) Lot was sitting at the gates of Sedom. Rashi interprets "sitting at the gates" to refer to a position of judgement and again the missing vav insinuates that this promotion had just taken place. Certainly, this abnormal spelling must be addressed in both instances. But why is this a necessary fact for the Torah to convey to us on these two occasions?

 

    The position of judge is certainly one that involves a great deal of responsibility. Certainly, in a culture such as that of Sedom, the task of a judge was quite daunting. Even though both Lot and Efron seemed to have been appointed, it still takes a great deal of courage and feeling of responsibility to accept the appointment. It also pertains directly to one of the seven mitzvos that even gentiles are required to keep.

 

    Perhaps, the Torah is conveying to us in both these instances the great reward that is allotted to those who bravely take upon themselves positions of responsibility for the greater good. These two characters, as analyzed by the commentaries, are certainly not short of flaws. Yet both are put into a somewhat positive spotlight. It was this noble act that gave Lot the merit to be saved from the destruction of Sedom. Indeed, it was in Avraham's merit as well that he was saved. But had Lot truly been as wicked as the rest of the city, perhaps Avraham's merit would not have been enough. And it was Efron's accepting of his position as judge for which he merited to be a part of this historic acquisition.

 

    Moreover, when one seizes the reins of responsibility, they are realizing that they cannot simply wait for this void to be filled by another. Often times the position of responsibility is one that could, in theory, easily be filled by another candidate. But the man of responsibility seizes the moment and does not delegate or shirk these duties. For this reason, it is not enough that they simply be rewarded. Rather, it is on the very day, as Rashi notes, that they accepted these positions that they are instantly rewarded.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash
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, November 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben Avi Mori Reuven Pinchas, a"h, whose yahrtzeit is tomorrow, the 18th of Cheshvan.

As well, this Tuesday, the 21st of Chesvan, is the yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel ben Yoel.

 

After Avimelech mistakenly takes Sarah from Avraham, HaShem comes to him in a dream at night and tells him that he will die for his sin. Avimelech then proceeds to plead his innocence after which HaShem responds and lets him off the hook. The response begins (20:6) "Elokim said to him in the dream..." From pasuk 3 we are already aware that HaShem was speaking to Avimelech bachalom halaylah, in a dream of the night. Why is it necessary to repeat this point?

 

On a separate occasion, we have discussed the many differences in the conduct of Avimelech as opposed to Par'oah in just about the same circumstance. In addition to those points, Paroah was not even given the honour of a visit or warning from God, presumably because he simply was not worthy of such a revelation. Avimelech, on the contrary, did merit that visit. Instead of mere hints that something was not right, he received a message directly from HaShem, much in the way, it would seem, that any other prophet did. Yet, we do not ever see Avimelech referred to as a prophet. Wouldn't this dream constitute prophecy?

 

I therefore suggest, albeit without any textual source to support this theory, that true prophecy consists not only of a message from HaShem but the ability to converse with Him in the context of that prophecy. What happened here is that Avimelech actually awoke after receiving the message from HaShem in his dream. His words, quoted in the pasuk, were exclamations uttered while awake. He then went back to sleep and HaShem answered him in yet another dream. There was never an actual two-way conversation going on within the dream itself. Contrarily, when HaShem comes to Bil'am in his dream (Bemidbar 22:9-12) there is a clear dialog, although I suppose it is not clear that that was even a dream. Nevertheless, due to this nuance, Avimelech is not considered a navi.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Mysterious Midrash by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: I Can't Believe it's not Fresh by R' Ari Storch
Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash

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, November 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Noach

The well-known story of Noach and the great deluge surely yields its fair share of lessons and themes. Recently, a new thought came to mind, another idea that may be gleaned from the general "big picture" of what transpires in this week's parsha. The main driving force behind this thought is a snippet from Rashi at the end of Bereishis (6:6). He tells of an exchange between a heretic and R' Yehoshua ben Karchah whereby the heretic questioned HaShem's omnipotence based on the pasuk recounting an expression of despair, as it were, at the regret of having created Man. R' Yehoshua successfully rebuts the challenge and explains that even though it was known from the very beginning that the creation of Man would lead to this tragic point in history, HaShem still created Man, nevertheless, for the purpose of the righteous ones who would ultimately emerge.

This phase of mankind was doomed from the start. However, there are two interesting points that stand out regarding its demise. It was still necessary for these 1656 years of history to take place. Even as the world was completely destroyed, it was also necessary for a remnant to survive and build the new world rather than a complete annihilation followed by Creation started anew. Perhaps a similar observation can be made regarding the first luchos given to Moshe which ultimately had to be smashed and a new set fashioned. Still, the broken pieces of the original stones were carried inside the aron.

A number of years ago, I attended a program which highlighted the success of Israeli companies that chose to create a presence in Maryland. One of the speakers, Lior Schillat, addressed the idea of Israel being known as "Startup Nation," and why so many successful startup businesses have emerged from Israel. Although he did not appear to be particularly religious, his first approach seemed to be pure Divine Providence. But he followed that up with another intriguing idea. He suggested that Israelis do not have a fear of failure. They are only able to ultimately reach success because they are not afraid to try new ventures which might appear to have a significant likelihood of falling flat. But those failures ultimately lead to great success. Indeed, one is hard-pressed to find a largely successful enterprise which is simply the result of a "first shot."

Perhaps this is a lesson to be extracted from the tragedy of the mabul. The failure and breakdown of society was a necessary phase of history to teach us the value of being able to embark on a venture and be willing to fail. And it was crucial for a surviving entity to spark the rebirth and rebuilding in order to impress upon us that past failures are only indeed of any value if we are able to take with us the lessons learned and build upon them.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: The Weight of the Teiva and The Constant Rate of Recession 
AstroTorah: Sailing the Friendly Skies by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The World's First Boat?
Dikdukian: Noach's Three Sons

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

Thursday, October 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Bris / Bereishis

This coming Sunday, 28 Tishrei, is the Yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, z"l.

This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.

Earlier today was the bris of our baby boy whom we named Yitzchak Chaim. Below are some thoughts expressed at the seudah.


Parshas Bereishis is a very appropriate week for us to be making this Bris. We have just finished a complete cycle of the Torah, one we've been through over and over again. And here we are, cycling back all the way to the beginning and starting all over again. We've done this year in and year out and still we approach it once again as a new beginning. It was just less than 4 months ago we were standing here celebrating Efrayim's Bar Mitzvah. Now, don't worry, I definitely realize that we are by no means done but a Bar Mitzvah certainly does signify a momentous checkpoint in the cycle of life not just for the child but for the parents as well. And here we are now starting a whole new beginning, trying to dust off the cobwebs of baby parenthood, trying to figure out yet again the best way to change a diaper. It certainly brings the timing into perspective.

My father challenged me to try to find some hints to bris milah in the parsha. While that might be somewhat difficult, the references to childbirth and child-rearing are almost too easy. But I'd like to reflect on a point that the Rav spoke about in his drashah this past Shabbos. To summarize, the challenges of chinuch must be tackled long before they appear to become relevant. The effort you put into building a home and raising your children must start well before they enter this world. There is a Rashi which seems to directly support this point. Harbah arbeh itzevoneich veheironeich, b'etzev teiledi vanim (3:16). "I will intensify your pain and travail, with great pain you will bear children." Rashi understands the first term, itzevoneich, as a reference to tza'ar gidul banim, the anguish involved in raising children. It is only the next two that refer to the pains of pregnancy and childbirth. There is certainly so much that can be discussed about this pasuk but the glaring nuance to me has always been this interesting chronology placing the challenge of tza'ar gidul banim first. Although it has been argued that since Chava had already given birth when the curse was given, it made sense for tza'ar gidul banim to come first, I still believe that this pasuk, with Rashi's interpretation is teaching us this lesson of how early this challenge must be addressed.

The name we chose for our son, Yitzchak Chaim, is the name of my wife Haviva's father's father, Rabbi Yitzchak Yeres. Haviva shared a very special bond with her grandparents from her many visits to the Bronx and as well, during her years in Eretz Yisrael. I came into the family at the later stages of his life. He was not able to attend our wedding but I did have the good fortune of being able to meet Sabba Rabba and Savta Rabba, as they were called, when we visited Eretz Yisrael early in our marriage. What I found so striking was not only his nei'mus, the sweetness with which he interacted with everyone around him with his radiant smile, but how quickly and seamlessly that sweetness became apparent. It wasn't hidden under many layers; he wore it on his sleeve. I still have fond memories of our one visit and how he called for our taxi back to Yerushalayim and escorted us to the car to pre-pay and make sure we got in, like he did for so many other grandchildren. I can still recall the sweetness of his voice in the annual birthday voicemails he would leave. And the truth is, you could even feel it in the emails he would write. I brought with me a publication that was put out by the family after his passing for the benefit of those who did not know him to perhaps get a glimpse of what I'm trying to portray. One of the iconic photos of Sabba Rabba is of him pensively but joyfully holding the lulav and esrog in shul on Sukkos.  So it is most fitting that our Yitzchak Chaim was born on Sukkos. Although we were already decided on the name, I was actually looking for some sort of sign after he was born. Haviva was placed in room 174 which I quickly calculated was the gematria of עקד, which was good enough for me. Of course, it's never a bad idea to have a solid mnemonic to make sure you always get the right hospital room.

Sabba Rabba was born in the 1920's in Camden, NJ. The environment in America back then, of course, was one where maintaining a religious Jewish identity was hardly a foregone conclusion. Supplementing a public-school education with afternoon Talmud Torah was the norm. But he persevered and ultimately married and settled in the Bronx and taught limudei kodesh in Ramaz. Remarkably, after retiring, in his 60'she returned to Yeshiva University to complete his semichah which he had started many years prior and actually finished with one of his other sons. Even in his later years after having made aliyah, he always made time for learning. I often enjoy hearing stories about how Sabba Rabba and Savta Rabba used to live their pashut, simple lives in ways we cannot even fathom these days. We see fancy houses and cars and other various luxuries and feel that is something we would like to have but really it is our minds playing with us and convincing us that those exterior items might make our lives better. But if we really sat down with a clear and honest mind we would realize that the real true kin'ah, that which we really crave, is the ability to live life as simply as they did in bygone generations without any desire for all the new-fangled indulgences we enjoy today. Although this might be a lofty goal to seek, the stories we hear from the olden days in the Bronx give us – at the very least – a small taste of what that life was like.

There are truly so many ways in which we wish our little Yitzchak Chaim to emulate his namesake, to be an aliyah for the neshamah and ultimately be a source of – as Sabba Rabba would often say – harbeh nachat.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: And the Days Was
AstroTorah: The Two Luminaries

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

Sunday, October 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Baby on Sukkos

With overflowing gratitude to HaShem, we are overjoyed to announce the arrival of a beautiful little 8-pound baby boy this past Wednesday night. Both Mommy and Baby and are doing well, B"H, and were home for Shabbos. The following are some thoughts I expressed at the Shalom Zachar.

Going through the mishnayos of Sukkah, there is some intriguing discussion relating to childbirth and early childhood, as they pertain to sukkah. In the Mishnah (2:8) discussing the exemption of children of the mitzvah, and the limitations of that exemption, it is mentioned that upon the birth of a grandchild, Shammai the Elder arranged a makeshift sukkah over the bed of his daughter-in-law on the baby's behalf. This represents a more extreme view on the age at which children become required to eat in a sukkah for the purposes of chinuch. The more lenient, mainstream opinion of chachamim is that a child becomes obligated in the mitzvah of sukkah when he is no longer dependent upon his mother. The gemara explains that this refers to a child who calls only once and then is silent. After all, even children who are over Bar Mitzvah and fully obligated do need their mothers for something every now and then. It is certainly an interesting perspective, bringing a baby into this world who is totally and completely dependent on others for every aspect of his life, looking ahead to a time down the road when he will achieve his own self-sufficiency.

This more lenient position is also interesting in its own right. There are general laws pertaining to chinuch across the board relating to all mitzvos. But it seems that sukkah has its own unique parameters defining a child's obligation. Furthermore, why is it specifically this aspect that defines the time at which a child is ready for this mitzvah?

The general idea of the mitzvah of sukkah is that we leave the secure walls of our house and dwell in a somewhat flimsy hut with an even weaker roof. What this transition symbolizes is that we realize that the protections and fortifications we have built for ourselves are superficial in nature and as façade to the reality that it is HaShem who is truly protecting us and watching over us. We step outside and subject ourselves to the elements to let go of our perceived independence and recognize our actual dependence on HaShem. A child who is anyway fully dependent on others for everything cannot appreciate this idea. It is only when a child has reached some level of their own independence that they can truly grasp what it means to let go of it for a week. Therefore, the beginning of the child's obligation to eat in the sukkah is defined by this aspect of their development.

Have a good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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

Friday, October 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Haazinu

In the concise, yet powerful, rebuke contained in this week's parsha, we are warned (32:26) of a time when HaShem will consider our utter and complete destruction, to put an end to us and our memory. However, HaShem will hold back for the reasons explained in the very next pasuk. "Were it not that I dreaded the enemy's provocation, ... lest they should say: Our hand is exalted, and it is not HaShem who has wrought all this." It is the enemy's blasphemous arrogance that turns HaShem's anger to them and spares us.

It is easy to read this or observe this and allow it to pass by as simply a "close call." But that is clearly not sufficient. In order for HaShem's rage to be turned toward our enemies, we must make sure to possess the very merits they lack. If they are to meet their demise because they were unable to see HaShem's Hand in their victory, then certainly it is incumbent upon us to see HaShem's hand in our defeat. When difficult times are upon us, we must not lose sight of the fact that everything is part of HaShem's plan. If we are able to face adversity and accept that it is HaShem's will, it is that very virtue that causes HaShem to turn His wrath from us upon those who refuse to acknowledge His Divine Hand. If not, we are no better than they are so why should we be saved?

This is indeed a task not to be taken lightly and perhaps one that evolves over the generations and the various challenges we face as a nation. When we face Godless and faithless enemies relying completely on their own might and not recognizing any Divine intervention, this distinction is easily made clear. However, an enemy claiming to serve and fear God and act on His will demands an even greater level of faith from us. It is imperative for us to emerge as the true believers in order to ensure that HaShem's wrath is directed at our enemies.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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