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Thursday, May 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Shavuos

Not too long ago, the mishnah yomis cycle passed maseches Chulin. The mishnah (Chulin 5:3) discusses a law regarding oso v'es beno, the prohibition against slaughtering both a mother animal and its child on the same day. There are four days of the year on which it is imperative to inform the buyer of an animal if its mother or its child have already been sold for slaughter. The reason is that on these days, it is certain that the animal is being purchased for immediate slaughter. One of these days is the erev Shavuos. There are various reasons given. There was one approach quoted in the Kehati mishnayos which is not sourced but I have been told is the position of Meiri. Since Shavuos is only one day, unlike the other holidays, there was a tendency to give great reverence to the day and make the meals extra special.

 

Shavuos tends to be downplayed somewhat based on its shorter length. After all, families don't always go to great lengths to spend Shavuos together as they do other yamim tovim. It really is over before you know it. But we see from the earlier generations that on the contrary, Shavuos should be given even more attention for this very reason. Rather than resign ourselves to Shavuos being 1/7 as significant as Sukkos or Pesach, we ought to be striving to somehow "cram" 7 days of a beautiful yom tov experience into one. Each meal, each shemoneh esrei, each hallel should be 7 times as meaningful.

 

Indeed, Shavuos is the chag of "making the most of it." We have all been in "making the most of it" mode for a couple of months now and many are slowly easing out. In Baltimore, for example, outdoor minyanim have now been sanctioned by the Vaad HaRabbanim. But it is certainly not the same as being back in our shuls with large crowds learning all night. May we all continue to make the most of it, particularly on this yom tov.

 

Have a chag samei'ach and good Shabbos!

 

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Shavuos takes it on the shin

Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey


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Friday, May 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar

It has been 11 years since we've had a year with this configuration which places Rosh Chodesh Sivan on Sunday, thus pushing aside the regular haftarah for Bemidbar in favour of the special haftaras machar chodesh. There is an intriguing connection between the haftarah and Shavuos, as detailed by R' Elie Wolf.

 

The haftarah is from Shmuel I perek 20. Towards the end, Sha'ul gets rather annoyed at his son Yonasan for siding with his friend, David. In the midst of his outburst, he exclaims, (pasuk 30) "Son of a rebellious woman! Do I not know that you choose ben Yishay to your own shame and the shame of your mother's nakedness!?" What is the reason for such an outburst and what does Yonasan's mother have to do with anything?

 

Rashi on this pasuk tells the story of how Sha'ul met his wife. After most of the tribe of Binyamin were wiped out following the gruesome episode of pilegesh b'Giv'ah at the end of Shoftim, the tribe was in danger of extinction. They were told to go out to the vineyards and watch as the daughters of Shiloh come out and dance and they were to pick wives from them. Sha'ul was embarrassed and did not partake in this exercise until finally, his eventual wife uncharacteristically ran after him and, well, the rest is history.

 

The gemara (Yevamos 76b) tells the story of how the validity of David's lineage was questioned due to the fact that he descended from Rus the Moabite, a passage with obvious implications to Shavuos when we read Megillas Rus. Avner maintains that the prohibition of a Moabite (or Amonite) to marry into B'nei Yisrael (Devarim 23:4) applies only to males (Moavi v'lo Moavis) and therefore Rus was allowed to marry Bo'az and David's lineage is clean. The rationale he suggests is that the reason given for the prohibition is that they did not come out and greet B'nei Yisrael with food and bread. This can only be a claim on the men for it is not the way of the woman to go out and greet. Do'eg retorts that they should have brought out the men to greet the men and the women to greet the women, to which Avner seemingly has no response. The gemara later concludes that the rebuttal to Do'eg's claim is that even still, the pasuk says, (Tehillim 45:14) "kol kevudah bas melech penimah," the honour of the princess is to dwell within. Even to greet the women, it would not have been right to make the women come out. Aruch LaNer suggests that the reason why Avner neglected to offer this rebuttal is because he did not want to insult Sha'ul haMelech for the manner in which his wife seized him was clearly a breach of this maxim. Therefore, he chose to remain silent.

 

Chid"a and Chasam Sofer suggest that this is the explanation of Sha'ul's rebuke of Yonasan. If Yonasan is choosing to side with David, he is affirming the legitimacy of David's kingship which is based on the adage "kol kevudah bas melech penimah." By doing so, he is effectively shaming his own mother for the way she seized Sha'ul.

 

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

 

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Clarification of a Sheva Na rule

Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase

Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky

Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers

Al Pi Cheshbon: Discrepency in Levi's Population

Al Pi Cheshbon: Explaining the Uncounted Levi'im

Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability

Dikdukian: Be or Ba?

Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin


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Friday, May 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Behar / Bechukosai


This coming Sunday, 23 Iyar, is the 10th yahrtzeit of my great aunt, Lady Amélie Jakobovits, a"h. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Mayla bas Eliyahu.

 

This coming Tuesday, the 25th of Iyar, is the 19th yahrtzeit of my mother, a"h. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Tzirel Nechamah bas Tovia Yehudah.

 

In the section dealing with our obligation to reach out and come to the aid of our neighbour, there is a glaring discrepancy, pointed out by Meshech Chachmah, in two adjacent pesukim. The first deals with the ger toshav, a non-Jew who has sworn off avodah zarah but is not subject to all of our mitzvos. We are commanded to support him in his time of need. The pasuk (25:35  ) ends off, "vachai imach." The next pasuk, dealing with the prohibition of charging interest, ends of, "vechei achicha imach." The message seems almost the same but the word vachai turns into vechei.

 

Meshech Chachmah explains the difference between these two similar terms. One might summarize it as follows: Chei is to live whereas chai is life itself. We find the word chai used with respect to HaShem, as in "Chai HaShem," because He embodies everlasting lifeThe word chei is used with respect to more fleeting life, such as Yoseif's use of the term "chei Par'oah." 

 

When we support our neighbour, the ger toshav, it is far more than providing financial stability. Since he has not accepted the full burden of all mitzvos, his sole source of "everlasting life" is his connection to our community. If we do not come to his aid, he will surely stray and give up the life he had chosen. Therefore, reaching out to him is indeed providing him with everlasting life.

 

The second pasuk refers to achicha, your Jewish brother. He therefore already merits the "everlasting life" by virtue of his service of HaShem and acceptance of all mitzvos, a pact he surely cannot alleviate himself of under any circumstances. Therefore, our financial support, however mandatory, is simply providing superficial, physical life. And so, the word chei is used instead.

 

!חזק, חזק, ונתחזק

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
DIkdukian: Hearing Los

Dikdukian: How Lo Can You Go?

Dikdukian: Even Lo-er

Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule
Al Pi Cheshbon: An Ironic Observation

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Friday, May 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Emor

Parshas Emor always comes out in the middle of sefiras ha'omer and it is also the parsha which contains the commandment for sefiras ha'omer (23:15). This unique mitzvah seems to give rise the most interesting halachic discussions ranging from the theoretical, such as counting the Omer in alternative number bases, to the more practical, such as the effect of crossing the International Date Line on the fulfillment of the mitzvah. There is an interesting discussion as to whether or not writing may qualify as a valid means of fulfilling the mitzvah of sefiras ha'omer. That is, if one was to write, "Hayom yom x la'omer," would that be sufficient to fulfill one's obligation and would this action disallow one from repeating the count with a berachah?

The discussion of this halachic quandary follows an interesting family tree. This issue is first dealt with in the responsa of R' Akiva Eiger, siman 29. The teshuvah is actually written by R' Akiva Eiger's uncle, R' Wolf Eiger. Unable to attend his nephew's wedding, he made a simultaneous banquet of his own to celebrate the occasion. He wrote to his nephew about this halachic issue, which was discussed at the banquet. He cites a number of related issues which he builds together to try to reach a conclusion. The gemara (Yevamos 31b, Gittin 71a) teaches that witnesses may only testify by means of their mouths and not by writing. The gemara (Shabbos 153b) states that mutes should not separate terumah because they cannot say the berachah. It is assumed that writing the berachah would not have been sufficient. Also, there is a discussion among the commentaries with regards to the validity of a vow that is written and not recited. R' Wolf Eiger concludes that writing is not a sufficient means of fulfilling the mitzvah of sefiras ha'omer. However, this sparks a debate between him and his nephew which stretches out to siman 32.

This issue is eventually discussed in the responsa of Kesav Sofer (Yoreh Dei'ah siman 106) by R' Avraham Shmuel Binyomin Sofer, R' Akiva Eiger's grandson who was, in fact, named after R' Wolf Eiger. He covers a host of related topics and eventually discusses the exchange recorded in his grandfather's sefer. The debate, although it encompasses various pertinent issues, never produces any concrete proof directly concerning the act of counting. However, Kesav Sofer quotes his father, Chasam Sofer, in his footnotes to R' Akiva Eiger (his father- in-law) where he provides a more concrete proof. The gemara (Yoma 22b) teaches that one who counts the number of B'nei Yisrael transgresses a prohibition as it is written (Hoshea 2:1) "And the number of B'nei Yisrael shall be like the sand of the sea that shall not be measured nor counted." The gemara cites two examples (Shmuel I 11:8, 15:4) where Shaul HaMelech went out of his way to avoid this prohibition by using pieces of clay or rams in order to perform a census. Chasam Sofer suggests that Shaul could simply have counted the men by writing down the numbers and not saying them. Since Shaul went to far greater lengths, we are compelled to say that writing the number of men would still have qualified as counting them and he would not have sufficiently dodged the prohibition. Thus, concludes Chasam Sofer, if one has explicit intention to fulfill the mitzvah, writing is a valid means of counting Sefiras HaOmer. However, Kesav Sofer suggests that perhaps the berachah should not be recited in this case.

It's hard to imagine what the practical implications might have been in those days. Why would someone write down the day of the omer if not for the fact that they were completely unable to talk. However, perhaps this issue has more practical implications in our modern age. Suppose someone sends his friend a text message asking what night of sefirah it is and he responds, "tonight is 6." Could there be a problem counting with a berachah after that?

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Ner Tamid

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Thursday, April 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

In Bemidbar 3 and 26 when Nadav and Avihu are mentioned, the pasuk recounts "vayamusu... bahikravam eish zara..." the pasuk recounts the specifics of their sin in bringing the ketores which they were not commanded to bring. However, here, it only says at the beginning of the parsha "b'karvasam ... vayamusu." The pasuk refers to their coming close to HaShem and their subsequent death but there is no specific mention of the aish zara as there is in the other references.

 

The reference to the death of Aharon's two sons is followed directly by the instruction of Aharon as to the proper procedure for entering the kodesh hakadashim on Yom Kippur. The procedure is briefly prefaced by the warning that one may not enter the kodesh hakadashim whenever they please. Rashi connects the two topics with the parable of the doctor who tells his patient, "Follow these directions so that you don't die the way so-and-so died." But what in fact is the connection between Nadav and Avihu's death and entering the kodesh hakadashim?

The simplest answer might be that according to Bar Kappara in the midrash, the actual sin of Nadav Avihu was entering the kodesh hakadashim. However, R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l, offers an answer which is concurrent with all the opinions in the midrash. There are quite a number of opinions quoted in the midrash as to the actual sin of Nadav Avihu. But with close examination, there emerges a pattern amongst all of them. The central theme seems to be that Nadav and Avihu were trying to reach a degree of closeness to HaShem which was beyond their reach. Their actions indicated a desire to become closer to HaShem but this yearning brought them to act inappropriately. Therefore, their actions serve as a lesson that there are limits when it comes to closeness to HaShem. This is the theme of the Yom Kippur avodah. A kohein gadol may not enter the Kodesh HaKadashim whenever he pleases, even if it is to become closer to HaShem. There is a time and place for this practice and it is on Yom Kippur only.

Perhaps this answers the original question. In this specific reference to the demise of Nadav and Avihu, we are not concerned with the actual actions that lead to their tragic death. We are merely concerned with the motives behind their actions and how they relate to the principal topic, the avodah of Yom Kippur.

Once again, the parsha provides us an insight which is most appropriate to our time. The main method by which we connect to HaShem is through tefillah and learning in shul. That has been taken away from us for now. Unfortunately, for some, this is too daunting a challenge and many have attempted to ignore the edicts of the medical community and the rabbanim. As many gedolim have made very clear, this irresponsible activity has the potential to be just as fatal – to many more people – as the actions of Nadav and Avihu. For us, the challenge of the day is to put limits on our attempts to become closer to HaShem and do so, to the best of our abilities, in our own home.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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Friday, April 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria / Metzora

Please continue to daven for Chaim Yitzchak ben Baila, Refael Elchanan Shimon ben Baila and Chaim Aryeh Z'ev ben Aidel besoch sh'ar cholei Yisrael.

 

One would have to say that if a rav is looking to connect the parsha to the present global situation in which most of us find ourselves in some degree of isolation, this week is pretty much a freebie. The parallels with the metzora procedure are nothing short of obvious. There are even some commentaries that suggest that although the tzara'as is brought on as a Divine punishment for specific sins, it is still contagious. However, there is a discussion regarding the laws of the metzora which draw even more intriguing connections.

 

We are told (13:46) that the metzora must be sent outside of the camps and must dwell alone, "badad yeisheiv." The commentaries note that tzara'as comes as a punishment for lashon hara, which comes as a result of engaging in idle chatter with one's friends and others. Therefore, the punishment is fitting that the metzora must be excommunicated so he cannot converse with his friends and thus, surely cannot tell any more lashon hara. This will give the opportunity to examine his sins and repent. According to this reasoning, it would seem that the metzora should be in total solitary confinement, without even the company of other metzoraim. This, however, is not so clear.

 

The first source that must be considered is an incident in Navi which is, in fact, the haftarah for parshas Metzora which we will not be reading this year, as is often the case. In Melachim II 7:3 we are told that there were four metzoraim at the gateway. In the events that ensue it is clear that these men were together. However, this a conclusive proof one way or the other for a number of reasons. First, Chaza"l (Sotah 47a, Sanhedrin 107b) tell us that these four men were Geichazi and his sons. In the sefer Nachalas Shimon (by Rabbi Shimon Krasner of Ner Yisroel) it is pointed out that if a metzora would require absolute solitary confinement it would be because it follows the laws of nidui, excommunication, in which no one may be within four amos of the menudeh. (Indeed, four amos is likely not far off from the six feet or two metres that have been mandated for physical distancing.) However, in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 334:2) it is stated clearly that even one who is in nidui may be with his wife and kids. Additionally, many commentaries point out that this particular instance of tzara'as is anomalous in that it was the result of a curse from Elisha that the tzara'as of Na'aman (see the haftarah of Tazria which is read even less often, just over 16% of all years) should inflict Geichazi and his sons.

Rashi, on the words "badad yeisheiv" writes that other temai'im should not dwell with him. This might seem to indicate that he does in fact require solitary confinement. However, Rashi's intent is made more clear in his commentary on the gemara in Pesachim (67a) which Rashi is quoting here. There it is clear that the meaning is that other "types" of temai'im such as zav and temei meis may not dwell with the metzora but it would seem that other metzoraim are allowed to dwell with him.

On this note, one of the more interesting stories I've read recently was that of a completely kosher minyan and dancing over Pesach – in a designated Coronavirus hotel where everyone was already ill with the virus.

Nachalas Shimon on Melachim II deals with this issue at length and the conclusion is that it seems to be permissible. Tzafnas Panei'ach, as well, reaches the conclusion that it is allowed. Malbim here also writes that a metzora may dwell with other metzoraim and he aligns this approach with the precise definition of the word badad, explaining that it implies a separation but not an absolute confinement for we see the word badad referring to an entire nation at once (Bemidbar 23:9).

Nevertheless, the sefer Minchah Belulah writes that metzoraim may not dwell with each other for they are not equals.

Have a chodesh tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Omer in Different Bases
Dikdukian: White Hair

Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin


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Friday, April 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

In this week's parsha, we learn of the tragic episode of Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aharon who were killed when they brought a sacrifice which they were not commanded to bring. This is indeed a very fitting passage to be reading during this time as we continue to see great people succumbing to the virus that has overtaken much of the world – not to mention the (almost) yearly applicability as we begin to mourn the passing of the disciples of Rabbi Akiva. As the story begins, the pasuk (10:1) recounts, "And two sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, took..." I found it puzzling that they are first referred to as the sons of Aharon and only following that are they identified by their names. One might have expected the opposite.

After convincing the citizens of the city of Shechem to circumcise themselves, Shimon and Levi return three days later and wipe out all of the males. There too, (Bereishis 34:25) they are referred to as "the two sons of Yaakov, Shimon and Levi."

At the beginning of Parshas Korach (Bemidbar 16:1), when Korach's entourage is enumerated, we are introduced to Dasan and Aviram by name for the very first time. They are indeed referred to as "Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav." I am no longer sure which is the exception and which is the rule but perhaps the following thought may explain this discrepancy:

Although the actions of Yaakov and Aharon's sons were met with sharp opposition or death, each group acted with a considerable degree of good intentions. Shimon and Levi's attack on the city of Shechem was hardly an act of selfishness. They were defending their sister and the honour of their father. Although Yaakov ultimately chastised them for their angry attack, their decision was clearly fuelled by noble, selfless intentions.

Nadav and Avihu, as well, were overcome by the Divine presence and the great miracles that were an integral part of the consecration of the mishkan. They brought their sacrifice because they were inspired to do so and as kohanim, the sons of Aharon, they felt it was the proper thing to do. Although both the sons of Aharon and the sons of Yaakov made incorrect judgements, the Torah's recount of their deeds alludes to the virtuous intentions behind their actions by first reaffirming their prestigious pedigree. Dasan and Aviram, contrarily, were driven by selfish motives. Being the sons of Eliav is therefore considered insignificant with respect to their names. They are therefore listed with their names first, indicative of the driving forces behind their actions.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Lehavdil

Daily Leaf:

:מ Do thoughts have language?

.מ"א One last thing

 


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