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Friday, January 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Kayla (née Levy) and Yosef Marx of Eretz Yisrael on the birth of their daughter, Tzirel Nechama, earlier this week. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Levy and Marx mishpachos and to the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.

 

As the Egyptians realized they were doomed when their chariots began to collapse in the middle of Yam Suf, they proclaimed (14:25) "Let us flee from the Israelites for HaShem is fighting for them in Egypt!" At least, this is the simple literal understanding of what they said. But the last phrase is very puzzling. They were not in Egypt. HaShem wasn't fighting their battle in Egypt. Rashi starts by interpreting the word beMitzrayim as really meaning baMitzriyim, not in Egypt but with the Egyptians. That solves the problem rather simply.

 

He then brings another, less direct approach from the Mechilta. Just as those who in the sea were being smitten, so too those who remained in Egypt were being simultaneously smitten.

 

However, Targum Onkelos offers a novel interpretation of this pasuk. He writes that the Egyptians were declaring that this was the same Strong Hand of God that fought B'nei Yisrael's battles in Egypt. A polytheistic belief system, such as that to which the Egyptians subscribed, is forced to attribute boundaries to their deities by some sort of criteria such as location, time or specific strength. As much as the Egyptians recognized HaShem's Hand in the meting out of the ten plagues, they still did not appreciate our monotheistic beliefs. It would seem from this pasuk that they believed that HaShem's powers were somehow confined to Egypt. They chased B'nei Yisrael with the belief that His Mighty Hand would not reach them outside of those boundaries. When they witnessed the miraculous collapse of their chariots, they finally began to realize their error. They recognized that the God who brought their nation to its knees on its home turf knows no boundaries and was now bringing them to their ultimate demise.

 

(On further consideration, I'm not sure I have accurately understood the tense of the targum. But I believe the idea is valid independently, as well.)

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Happy 12th Birthday, Dikdukian!
Dikdukian: Exceptions Ahoy
Dikdukian: Midash, HaShem...
Dikdukian: Leave us Alone
Al Pi Cheshbon: Chamushim
AstroTorah: The Gemara's Aliens? by R' Ari Storch

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Friday, January 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Bo

I recently had an observation regarding the current political battle raging in the United States and how it relates to events in these parshios. Without getting too deep in the political weeds, one way to understand the dispute is a disagreement as to whether or not certain individuals are desired as residents of this country. Shall we build a wall to keep out all but those who wish to enter through fully legal means? Or is it proper to let anyone in who wants to enter? Every nation needs to devote significant thought to the issue of whom they want to let in and at times, even consider those who are already there and whether they should remain.

There were certainly many facets to the subjugation in Mitzrayim and the subsequent redemption. This national issue was very much part of the story line. At the very beginning of Shemos, we learn about Paroah's convention to decide what to do about their "Jewish problem." One must assume that expulsion was an option that was on the table. Other nations throughout history have certainly had no qualms about that course of action. Ultimately, of course, it was decided that best strategy was to keep, contain and subjugate them.

As the mission towards deliverance begins, the dialogue consists primarily of Moshe trying to convince Paroah to let B'nei Yisrael leave for B'nei Yisrael's sake, not the sake of Paroah or Mitzrayim. However, after the attrition of the initial seven plagues, at the beginning of this week's parsha, we begin to see a shift. After Paroah stubbornly ignores Moshe's warning about the locusts, his closest courtiers have had enough and insist (10:7) that he let them go. We all know how that turned out.

Later, in the preamble to the ultimate plague of makas bechoros, Moshe foretells (11:8) that these servants would give up on convincing their ruler and come to Moshe on their own and beg him to leave. Sure enough, as the events played out, Paroah himself came to Moshe and Aharon and the entire nation eventually came to the realization that under no circumstances could the nation sustain B'nei Yisrael remaining in their midst. Finally, we were given the one expulsion in our history that we were actually longing for.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Talented Locusts
AstroTorah: Korban Pesach in the Sky by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The Death Star (Ra'ah) the classic by R' Ari Storch

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

Friday, January 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eira

BOOK PLUG: Although we do have an extra month this year, Pesach is still fast approaching. These parshiyos are the perfect time to get in the mood and start thinking about the haggadah. My good friend, noted author Mordechai Bodek has come up with yet another unique masterpiece, surely the first of its kind – The Emoji Haggadah. Please check it out: https://tinyurl.com/emojihaggadah

At the beginning of the plague of frogs, as Aharon raised is hand over the waters of Egypt, the pasuk states (8:2) "vata'al hatzefardeia," the frog rose up. Although throughout the episode, the frogs are always referred to in plural, here it is in the singular form. There is a discussion in the gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) as to what to make of this anomaly. R' Akiva said there was one frog which filled the whole land (seemingly by giving birth to the other frogs). R' Elazer ben Azaria took offense, exclaiming, "Akiva, why do you bother to delve in aggada? Cease and return to the study of negaim and ohalos. There was one frog and it whistled to all its friends to join and they came."

Chasam Sofer is bothered by the tone of R' Elazar ben Azaria's remarks. There is certainly nothing in the pasuk itself that is in opposition to R' Akiva's interpretation. Why is he so turned off by his suggestion?

The gemara (Pesachim 53b) discusses the great miracle of Chananiah, Mishael and Azaria who were forced by Nevuchadnezzar to walk through a fiery furnace and came out alive. Todos ish Romi taught, "What led Cananiah Mishael and Azaria to walk through the fiery furnace (rather than bow down to an idol)? They reasoned that the frogs who are not obligated to sanctify God's name nevertheless jumped into the ovens of the Egyptians as part of the plague of frogs (7:28). Certainly, we who are obligated to sanctify God's name must surely make that sacrifice.

Chasam Sofer explains that if one frog gave birth to many, as R' Akiva suggested, than all those frogs were created solely for the purpose of this plague. If so, Chananiah Mishael and Azaria would have no basis for their reasoning. They, who have a purpose, could not derive from the frogs who had no other purpose but to jump into the ovens. Therefore, R' Elazar ben Azaria is vehemently opposed to R' Akiva's interpretation and explains that surely, these frogs who participated in the plague were in existence before the plague.

Interestingly, in coming up with the title for this shtikle on another occasion and choosing "Kamikaze Frogs," I actually discovered that the word Kamikaze is Japanese for "Divine Wind," which makes it even more appropriate than I had first thought.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Va'eira by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Leshon Yachid veRabbim by Eliayhu Levin

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

Friday, December 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

After the episode when Moshe eliminates the Egyptian who was beating up on an Israelite, he observes two men fighting and attempts to break up the fight. One of the assailants, identified by chaza"l as Dasan, challenges Moshe and retorts (2:14) "Halehargeini ata omer ka'asher haragta es hamitzri?" Loosely translated, he asked, "Are you saying to kill me like you did to the Egyptian?" The difficulty with this accusation is that killing hardly has anything to do with words. What did Dasan mean when he said "Are you saying to kill me?"

Rashi writes that we may understand from this wording that Moshe killed the Egyptian with the Sheim HaMeforash, the Holy Divine Name which, when spoken, has lethal powers. Dasan was afraid that Moshe might use it on him as well. When Moshe actually killed the Egyptian, Rashi commented there (2:12) that Moshe examined his prospective descendants and saw that no good person would come out of him and then killed him. Why did he need to use the Sheim HaMeforash? Why didn't he kill him the old fashioned way? Additionally, why did he have to examine his future generations before killing him? If he was liable to be killed, then what difference would any righteous offspring make?

The Brisker Rav writes that according to Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 10:6) a gentile who strikes a Jew is liable but punished only with misah bidei Shomayim, death at the Hands of Heaven. This means that HaShem will see to it that this punishment is exacted. Moshe, therefore, could not kill the Egyptian with his own hands. Using the Sheim HaMeforash was, in essence, a way of carrying out the death penalty as a messenger of the Heavenly court. However, a Heavenly judgement is not like that of a regular court. A regular court will focus only on the crime and no other factors. The Heavenly court, however, may pass judgement based on outside factors. The Heavenly death penalty may be waived by virtue of a potential righteous offspring. Moshe, therefore, had to make sure that no good man would come out of the Egyptians descendants in order to determine that he was fit for the Heavenly death penalty.

My father offers a more straightforward approach to the first pasuk we dealt with. In the famous episode of Kayin and Hevel, we find a similar nuance. The pasuk (Bereishis 4:8) reads: "And Kayin said to Hevel, and they were in the field and Kayin came upon Hevel his brother and killed him." The pasuk does not recount what it was that he said. Rashi there writes that the words that were spoken were words of incitement. Rather than kill his brother out of the blue, Kayin was picking a fight in order to lead up to the murder. The use of amirah may be understood likewise in our case. Dasan's accusation may thus be understood, "Are you, Moshe, starting up with me and inciting me so that you eventually kill me as you did the Egyptian?" This is a more simplistic understanding of the pasuk.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikduian: Dikduk Observations on Shemos by 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 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

Yesterday, 12 Teves, was the 11th yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joseph Schechter of Ner Yisrael. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yoseif ben Eliezer Z'ev.

At the beginning of this week's parsha (47:29), Yaakov asks his son, Yoseif, for a favour, to bring his body back to Eretz Yisrael and bury him with his forefathers. Yoseif has no objections and agrees immediately. However, Yaakov then asks Yoseif to swear to him to that effect. Yoseif was Yaakov's dear and trusted son. Did he really have so little trust in him that he needed him to swear that he would heed his word?

It seems that Yaakov made Yoseif swear not out of mistrust but out of concern that Yoseif would run into problems getting permission to leave Egypt as, indeed, he did. Yoseif requests permission to bury his father and Paroah's answer is (50:6) "Bury your father as he made you swear that you would." Rashi goes into even greater detail explaining that if not for this vow, Paroah would not have let Yoseif go. Paroah actually insisted that Yoseif renege on his vow. However, Paroah himself had made Yoseif promise not to reveal that he knew only seventy languages while Yoseif knew leshon haKodesh in addition to the seventy languages. Yoseif countered that if he was to renege on his father's vow, he would then renege on the vow that he made to Paroah. Yaakov had the foresight to realize that Paroah would not be happy with his right-hand man leaving the country and so he provided this vow as a means to help Yoseif leave.

The aforementioned exchange between Yoseif and Paroah is rather puzzling. Is it possible that Yosef retorted with such a threat? Paroah was the most powerful man in all of Egypt and would not be expected to tolerate such insubordination. I heard an explanation of Yoseif's words from my father which I later saw in Birkas Peretz from The Steipler Rav. Yoseif was really telling Paroah that a person naturally feels an obligation to honour a promise. The vows a person makes are sacred to him. The breaking of a promise destroys this sacredness. Yoseif was simply warning Paroah that breaking his word to his father would have a subconscious effect on him. The promises he made will lose their sacredness in his mind and that might ultimately lead to the inadvertent disclosure of Paroah's secret. Paroah, realizing the lesson that Yosef was teaching, accepted his argument and allowed him to fulfill his vow.

Yoseif is often referred to as Yoseif HaTzadik for his many righteous deeds. However, he clearly made a point of not keeping this righteousness to himself. A careful analysis of his various interactions in Mitzrayim shows that he was always trying to teach valuable lessons in life by simply leading by example. And the Torah seems to testify that it worked, to some degree. Immediately upon his arrival in Mitzrayim, it is stated, (39:3) "and his master saw that HaShem was with him." Rashi writes that Yoseif would often invoke the name of Heaven. And his master certainly took notice. As the first man of galus, Yoseif was the quintessential light unto the nations to which we should all aspire.

Chazak, chazak, venischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash


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

When Yaakov reaches Be'er Sheva on his way down to Mitzrayim (46:1), he bring sacrifices to "the God of his father, Yitzchak." Of course, This was the God of his grandfather, Avraham, as well. However, Avraham's name is not mentioned. Rashi writes that the reason is because one is obligated more so to respect his father than to respect his grandfather. The very simple and obvious inference to be made from this Rashi is that there is, in fact, some halachic obligation of respect owed to one's grandfather, albeit less so than for one's father. Rama in Yoreh De'ah 240:24 writes that there is an obligation to respect one's grandfather. His source is this Rashi.

However, this issue is the subject of much discussion amongst the posekim. Mahari"k (Shoresh 30) declares that a grandfather is just like anyone on the street, so to speak. That is, there is no specific obligation of respect. There seems to be no official source given by the Mahari"k. One source that is suggested as the basis for Mahari"k's position is the gemara (Sotah 49a.) The gemara relates that R' Yaakov grew up in the house of R' Acha bar Yaakov, his maternal grandfather. When asked to bring him water, R' Yaakov declared, "I am not your son." As the saying goes, "Raise me but I am still not your son for I am but your daughter's son." (End of quote) This suggests that there is no obligation to honour one's grandfather.

However, the GR"A and others explain that there is a difference between paternal and maternal grandparents. The GR"A, Gilyon Maharsh"a and Mahari"l explain that the source is a gemara in Makkos (12a). The gemara discusses various laws pertaining to the go'eil hadam, the avenger. In certain specific instances, certain relatives of a murder victim are permitted to avenge their relative's death. A brother is usually included in this group. However, if a father kills his own son, under these conditions, the brother of the victim is not permitted to kill his father. Nevertheless, the gemara does conclude that the son of the victim (grandson of the killer) is not bound by this prohibition. This seems to imply that there isn't any obligation to honour one's grandfather. Rashi's language there is even more unequivocal, stating that one is not warned by the Torah to respect his grandfather.

In addition to buttressing the position of Mahari"k, the statement of Rashi in Makkos also seems to be in contradiction with the statement made in our parsha. R' Akiva Eiger (Teshuvos 68) and others answer that when one's father is not alive, there is no obligation to honour the grandfather. Therefore, in the case of the gemara where it is the father that has been killed, the obligation to honour the grandfather does not apply. However, in our case, Yitzchak was not alive either. Perhaps one can explain as follows: There are certain acts of respect and honour that can be performed when a parent is alive (e.g. bringing them a cup of water.) But when a parent has passed, obviously some of these acts are no longer possible but there remains a subset of honour that is still possible after death, such as the way one addresses the parent by name. R' Akiva Eiger is addressing the former. The obligation to refrain from avenging a relative's death is clearly one that pertains to the living. In the case where the father is no longer alive, it doesn't apply to the grandfather. In our parsha we are dealing with a show of honour after passing. There would still be an obligation to show such honour to a grandparent, regardless, albeit less so than to a parent.

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 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

After Paroah awakes from his two dreams, he is unable to get a satisfactory interpretation from the chartumim. We are told (41:8) "v'ein poser osam l'Pharoah." Rashi interprets "l'Pharoah" as for Paroah's benefit. The chartumim did offer possible meanings of the dream but they were not to Paroah's liking. They suggested, for example, that he would have seven daughters and then bury those seven doors as they would die in his lifetime. When Paroah tells Yoseif (24) "va'omar el hachartumim, v'ein magid li," it seems he relates these feelings to Yoseif as well. Nevertheless, Yoseif proceeds to interpret the dream in a similar fashion, foreshadowing seven-fold good fortune followed by seven-fold misery which erases that good fortune. Why was Yoseif's interpretation more acceptable to Paroah?

There is some discussion in the commentaries regarding Yoseif's advice to Paroah following his interpretation. Some even suggest that it was improper and out of place for Yoseif to be putting in his two cents. After all, that's not what Paroah asked him for. However, considering the above question, it seems quite clear why Yoseif had to do this. If Paroah has seven daughters and buries them all he is left with nothing. If he has seven years of plenty followed by seven years of unbearable famine he is left with worse than nothing. Had Yoseif simply interpreted the dream, his offering would have been no more acceptable than that of the chartumim. With Yoseif's intelligent solution to the problem, his interpretation became much more favourable. Indeed, Paroah declares (39) "now that God has revealed all of this to you, there is no one as understanding and wise as you." Understanding would seem to refer to his interpretation of the dream. Wisdom refers to his solution.

 

 

The gemara (Shabbos 21b) explains the origins of Chanukah. After the great miracle, the rabbis instituted an eight day festival of praise and thanks. Although it would appear that the recitation of Al HaNisim is an integral part of this institution, it is not a requisite part of the Birkas HaMazon or davening as one need not repeat if it is forgotten. Indeed, Rambam does not include the laws pertaining to Al Hanisim in the laws of Chanukah but rather, in the laws of Tefillah. This implies that it is merely a general requirement to mention the day, "mei'ein hameora," in the tefillah but not an integral component of Chanukah itself.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l explains that when the Rambam discusses the halachos of Chanukah (3:3), he makes it clear that the lighting of the candles is mitzvah that was instituted as a manifestation of the praise and thanks. We show our appreciation not merely by thanking HaShem but by publicizing the miracle.

The underlying lesson is that the theme of Chanukah is praise and thanks. I therefore believe that the common reference to Chanukah as the Festival of Light is somewhat misleading. Focusing merely on the lights and not on the message behind them simply misses the point. The name is also likely related to an erroneous assumed connection to the other holiday that often falls around the same time. The Mishnah (Midos 2:3) recounts that the soreg, the wall that marked the point past which gentiles could not pass on the Har HaBayis, was breached in 13 places by the Greeks. The breeches were closed up following the victory over the Greeks. The victory and commemoration of Chanukah are the resealing of those breeches and our affirmation that we are different than all other nations. This is most important when Chanukah coincides with the end of December as it does this year. We must not lose sight of the true meaning of our holiday - the Festival of Praise and Thanks.

Have a Chaunkah Samei'ach and a good Shabbos!

Eiezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes

Dikdukian: Be Strong

Dikdukian: Just Do It!


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