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Friday, September 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

B'nei Yisrael are commanded (27:4) that after they cross the Yardein they are to set down the rocks on Har Eival, etc. In the gemara Sanhedrin 44a, R' Shaila teaches that Yehoshua did not act accordingly as the pasuk instructed to perform this ceremony immediately after crossing the Yardein but he travelled for 60 mil. Tosafos asks an obvious question. B'nei Yisrael were clearly commanded to follow these proceedings on Har Grizim and Har Eival. Is it Yehoshua's fault that these mountains were 60 mil from the Yardein?

Tosafos puts together a rather creative answer. In the gemara (Sotah 33b) there is a dispute between R' Yehuda and R' Elazar. R' Yehuda holds that Har Grizim and Eival were far away from the Yardein while R' Elazar holds that they were right next to it. Tosafos explains that R' Elazar holds that there were two sets of mountains and that they carried out the commandment on the closer one. The Yerushalmi states that according to R' Elazar, they actually built two mountains upon crossing the Yardein and called one Grizim and one Eival. Tosafos explains that R' Shaila here is of the opinion that the commandment to B'nei Yisrael follows R' Elazar's interpretation and was supposed to be carried out on the nearer mountain. What they in fact did in practice follows R' Yehuda's interpretation and that is why Yehoshua is rebuked for having delayed 60 mil. He was expected to have performed the ritual on the nearer set of mountains.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim at Har Gerizim and Har Eival
Dikdukian: Tough Day at the Office

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Friday, September 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

In this week's parsha, (23:5), we are told that an Amonite and Moavite are not allowed to come bikhal HaShem, that a convert from Amon or Moav may not marry into B'nei Yisrael. The reasons given are because they did not come forth with bread and water as we passed their land and for their hiring of Bilam to curse us. The question that is asked by many of the commentaries is that in 2:29, and particularly with the explanation of Rashi, it seems that Edom and Moav both provided B'nei Yisrael with bread and water, albeit with a price. Also, we do not see in the pesukim anywhere that Amon had anything to do with the hiring of Bilam. There is much discussion amongst the commentaries concerning this question. I will focus on the answer of the Sma"g. He simply interprets the pasuk as giving one reason for each nation. The Amonites are forbidden to marry into our nation because they did not come forth with bread and water. The Moavites are forbidden for their involvement in the hiring of Bilam.

The problem with this interpretation, however, is that in the gemara Yevamos 76b we learn that women are excluded from this prohibition. We learn this because the reason of not having come forth with bread and water would not apply to women whose nature is not to come forth in that manner. It seems from there that this reason applies to both Amon and Moav, for the very subject of that gemara is David HaMelech's legitimacy based on Rus having been a Moavite convert. The only possible explanation for the Sma"g is that just like it is not the nature of women to go out and greet a nation with bread and water, it is not their nature to go out and hire hitmen. The only difficulty with this, of course, is that such a reasoning is not mentioned in the gemara itself. Nevertheless, the Rashba in Yevamos interprets the gemara in accordance with the Sma"g.

    Another interesting nuance in the pasuk is that the language used in the failure to bring bread and water is "asher lo kidmu eschem." B'nei Yisrael are referred to in plural. But in the hiring of Bilam it states "va'asher sachar alecha," referring to B'nei Yisrael in singular. I think that the explanation for this is that when Bilam was to curse B'nei Yisrael, it was to be done on the entire nation at once. Therefore, the nation is referred to in singular form. However, from the aforementioned gemara in Yevamos it seems that it was expected of the Amonites to come forth with the men giving food to the men, and the women to the women. Since they were expected to come and give individual attention to separate groups of B'nei Yisrael, they are referred to in the plural.

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Please see the following discussion concerning whether there is a need to fulfill the mitzvah of Zechiras Amaleik this shabbos.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Weekly Shtikle: Mitzvas Zechiras Amaleik this week?

    Shiluach HaKein Game

Dikdukian: Shiluah Ha...

Dikdukian: Shva vs Kamatz 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, September 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim


There is a well-known precept in halachah that when faced with a safeik d'oraysa, an uncertainty regarding a Biblical decree, we are more stringent whereas with a safeik d'rabanan, an uncertainty regarding a rabbinic decree, we are lenient. There is a further discussion regarding safeik d'oraysa. The very fact that we lean on the stringent side - is that itself a Biblical decree or a later rabbinic institution? Rambam is of the opinion that it is a rabbinic decree but others argue that it is, in fact, Biblical.


A pasuk in this week's parsha seems to shed some light on the issue. We are taught later in the parsha that it is forbidden to cut down fruit-bearing trees for the purposes of a siege. Rather, (20:20) "only a tree that you know for certain is not fruit-bearing you may destroy and cut down."  Apparently, if you were uncertain as to whether or not it was a fruit-bearing tree, you would not be permitted to cut it down. This seems, at first glance, to contradict Rambam's position. If the stringency were only rabbinic, as Rambam suggests, then by Biblical standards we would be permitted to be lenient. We seem to be taught here that this is not the case.


However, points out Malbim, this pasuk is not as simple as it appears. The gemara from just over a week ago's daf yomi (Bava Kamma 91b) interprets this pasuk not to be referring to a tree about which we know nothing. Rather, it refers to a tree which was known to have previously been a fruit-bearing tree. The uncertainty is whether or not it has since lost its status as a fruit-bearing tree. This is a classic case of chazakah, an original prevailing status. When the original status is prohibitive, even Rambam will agree that we are stringent in a case of uncertainty as a Biblical edict. Therefore, this pasuk does not contradict Rambam's stated position in a case where there is no previous status.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Two of a Kind

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

Friday, September 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih / Shabbas Rosh Chodesh Elul

There are some interesting nuances behind the haftarah that is read this week and consequently, that which is read in two weeks. This topic is covered rather thoroughly by R' Yehuda Spitz's Insights into Halacha but I wanted to take a somewhat different approach. As a matter of introduction, I want to point out a neat little trick that may not be so well-known. If one wishes to plan ahead, the days of Rosh Chodesh from month to month are always in perfect sequence. For example, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz was Wednesday and Thursday. Rosh Chodesh Av was Friday and Rosh Chodesh Elul, haba aleinu l'tovah, is Shabbos and Sunday. Rosh HaShanah is Monday. One need only be aware of which are one day long and which are two days. (And Rosh HaShanah must be treated as one day. Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan will be Tuesday and Wednesday.)

With the knowledge of that simple sequence, it is clear that a Shabbos Rosh Chodesh should happen rather regularly. However, the prescribed haftarah for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, HaShamayim kis'I (Yeshaya 66) does not have a lot of halachic mazal. If the first of Tishrei is Shabbos, understandably, it is not read on Rosh HaShanah. If the first of Teves falls out on Shabbos, the haftarah for Chanukah is read instead. It is pushed off on Rosh Chodesh Adar for Shekalim and on Rosh Chodesh Nissan for HaChodesh. If Rosh Chodesh Av falls out on Shabbos, the appropriate Three Weeks haftarah is read.

We are now in the middle of a sequence of seven very specific haftaros of comfort, which are deemed to be of significant importance by the halachic authorities. If Rosh Chodesh Elul were to fall out on Sunday, are all in agreement that the usual haftarah of Machar chodesh is not read. Indeed, even tomorrow, the predominant sefardi custom is to once again push asid HaShamayim kis'i. But we Ashkenazim, based on Rema, will indeed read HaShamayim kis'i. I had wondered why this would be but when this occurred last year (and it will occur again in 2 and 3 years) I noticed that the reading of HaShamayim kis'I certainly contains words of comfort making it apropos as part of the seven week period following Tish'ah B'Av.

So what happens to the haftarah that we do not read tomorrow – Aniyah so'arah  (Yeshayah 54:11)? The text of the haftarah of Ki Seitzei is Rani akarah (Yeshayah 54:1-10) immediately precedes the text of this week's so we will simply read both together – a double haftarah, although it becomes identical to the single haftarah of Noach.

If you look at the seven special haftaros as a whole, they are all in sequential order from Sefer Yeshayah – with one exception. This week's skipped haftarah is out of order and I was always puzzled as to why that might be. It seems more than ironic that in years like this, the seven passages are read in perfect sequence. (The reading of HaShamayim kis'I, however, is from the very end of Yeshayah and is thus still out of order.) However, as R' Spitz himself conveyed to me via email, it is unlikely that this "shuffle" was the original intended to account for this situation because Abudarham,  who lays out the texts for the seven passages, does not even mention doubling any up. Perhaps by next year, when we read the usual haftarah of Re'eih, I will come up with a better reason for the order, or lack thereof.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Jewish Milk


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, August 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

Toward the beginning of the parsha, B'nei Yisrael are reminded (8:4) that their garments did not tatter and their feet did not swell for the duration of their forty-year sojourn. Then, they are told that they should know in their hearts that just as a father chastises his son, so too HaShem chastises B'nei Yisrael. The juxtaposition of these two pesukim is puzzling. Why would the great miracles in the desert be associated with chastising and punishment?

The obvious suggestion is that the chastising is referring not to the blessings mentioned in the previous pasuk but rather, to what precedes that passage. Those pesukim recount how HaShem inflicted suffering and starvation upon B'nei Yisrael, testing them to see if they will keep His mitzvos. Many commentaries understand this to be what is referred to as HaShem's chastising of B'nei Yisrael. However, this leaves two difficulties unaddressed. First, the comparison to the father is troublesome. The chastising and discipline of a father are usually not for the purpose of testing the son. How then can the pasuk compare HaShem's chastising to that of a father? Second, based on our initial question, the interruption of the pasuk dealing with the miracles is unexplained.

 

Indeed, it is not the norm for a parent to harshly discipline his son as a test. But perhaps that is not the point or the message here. HaShem tested B'nei Yisrael in ways that could be mistakenly perceived, on the surface, as nasty and cruel. But the next pasuk immediately reminds us of our miraculous provisions in the desert. Therein lies the comparison to the father. The true sign of a loving father is one who despite his apparent harsh treatment of his son, still happily provides his son with all he needs. When these two contrasting behaviours exist in harmony, it is clear that it is all done out of love. In order to fully understand HaShem's role as the Father, we must contrast the harsh punishments with the constant miracles that were lovingly performed for us.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: To Afflict the Corrector

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, August 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eschanan / Tu B'Av

Mazal Tov to my niece Rochel Leah (née Shonek) on her marriage to Shua Grunwald this past Monday. Mazal Tov to the extended Shonek, Bulka and Jakobovits families.

 

Today, the 15th of Av, is the yahrtzeit of my Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits.

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, z"l.

 

The gemara (Bava Basra 121a) tells us that there have not been celebrative days in Yisrael like Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur. On the 15th of Av, the gemara explains, the punishment for the sin of the meragelim ended. Every Tish'ah B'Av, another phase of the men who were aged 20-60 at the time of the meragelim died out. On the last year, it was known by the 15th of Av that all the dying had stopped. The simple question is, what is the big celebration? If all the males from 20-60 were supposed to die, once they all died it was obvious that the dying was over. What did they find out on the 15th of Av that they did not know before? Who was it that expected to die and was now overjoyed that they remained alive?

 

The commentaries deal at length with this problem. The Brisker Rav, R' Yitzchok Ze'ev haLevi Soloveichik, offers the following answer. In parshas Shelach, when HaShem declares the decree that all males from 20-60 die within the next 40 years, we find an interesting phrase. HaShem declares that none of them will merit to see the land and then adds (Bemidbar 14:23) "and all who angered Me will not see it." What is the meaning of this phrase? The Brisker Rav quotes a passage from Midrash Rabbah stating that although it was only the 20-60-year-olds who were categorically doomed to die in the midbar, regardless of their level of participation in the sin, the 13-20-year-olds who were involved in the sin were also doomed to die. This is the meaning of the pasuk. In addition to all of the 20-60-year-olds who will not see the land, those who angered HaShem from age 13-20 will also not see it.

 

The midrash comments on the pasuk in Tehillim 95:11, referring to those who perished in the desert, "Therefore I swore in my anger that they shall not come into my resting place." HaShem swore in His anger, but when His anger subsides, the decree will be lifted and they will be allowed to enter. The Raava"d asks the obvious question. Everyone who was supposed to die in the desert did, in fact, die. No one entered Eretz Yisrael from that generation! Rather, it is referring to those in the 13-20 category. They are referred to in the pasuk in Shelach as "mena'atzai," those who angered Me. So long as they remain in this category of "angerers, " they will not enter the land. If they do teshuvah, HaShem will no longer be angry at them and they will be allowed to enter.


This, says the Brisker Rav, is the group that rejoiced on Tu B'Av. They were not certain whether they would survive and enter the land or whether they would die that year. Their status was indeed uncertain. Once Tu B'Av came along and they were still alive, they knew that they had fallen out of the category of "mena'atzai" and would be allowed to enter the land.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: You were shown
Al Pi Cheshbon: Moshe's Pleas
Al Pi Cheshbon: Gemtrias off by 1
AstroTorah: 15 Av is the Wrong Date? 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, August 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim / Tish'ah B'Av

Apologies for the very late shtikle.

    A number of years ago I observed an interesting nuance in the targum of two words in this week's parsha.  When Moshe is in the midst of recounting the sin of the spies (1:29), he recounts having addressed the nation's concerns with the giants they would face in an attempt to enter Eretz Yisroel. He told them, "lo sa'artzun v'lo sir'un meihem," do not dread them and do not be afraid of them. The targum on "lo sa'artzun" is "lo sitab'run." Only thirteen pesukim later, we read about HaShem's having told Moshe to warn the "ma'pilim" not to try to conquer the land prematurely as HaShem would not support such an initiative. They are told not to go up and not to wage war "velo tinagfu lifnei oyeveichem," lest you be smitten before your enemies. The targum of "velo tinagfu" is "velo sitab'run," the exact same targum as that of "lo sa'artzun." There must be some significance to this.

 

    B'nei Yisrael were living in a time of unprecedented and unmatched Divine Providence. Their success or failure in all on national and personal levels were dependent directly upon their level of emunah. Although I do not have a concordance at my fingertips, I am not aware of any other instances of the root of "lo sa'artzun." The words "lo sitab'run," literally translated back from Aramaic, means "you shall not be broken." When the dor dei'ah were given a promise that they would defeat their enemy, it was demanded of them to have absolute faith and belief in that promise. Even the slightest doubt, the slightest fear of the enemy, was indicative of a breakdown of that belief. This breaking of the spirit, the lack of "lo sa'artzun," bore automatic consequences of  "tinagfu," military breakdown. Fear and defeat were a cause and effect so tightly bound that the targum deemed them synonymous.

 

    As parshas Devarim is always read on the Shabbos before Tish'ah B'Av, and indeed this year on the Ninth of Av itself, I was searching for a possible connection between this idea and the themes of Tish'ah B'Av. I was reading "Tear Drenched Nights," a book by R' Moshe Eisemann of Ner Yisroel which explores the profound and tragic effect that the sin of the spies had on our history, particularly the destruction of the two temples. In Chapter 7 he discusses one of the roots of the sin, that the spies lacked a belief in themselves. The moment they began to doubt the absolute promise that they would enter the land and conquer it no matter what the circumstances, everything came undone. This, the root of the tragic sin of the spies and thus, the root of generations upon generations of suffering in exile, is directly connected to the above idea.

 

    As we all strive to correct the sin of the spies in full faith in the "geulah ha'asidah," may we merit to see this month turned "miyagon lesimchah umei'eivel leyom tov!"

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Don't you worry!
Dikdukian: Past and Future

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