The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, August 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eschanan

Today, the 15th of Av, marks the 10th yahrtzeit of my Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

 

At the beginning of this week's parsha, after Moshe makes his plea to enter Eretz Yisrael, he is told (3:27) to go to the top of the mountain, to lift his eyes west, north, south and east and see with his eyes for he will not cross the Jordan River. Why is he told to see with his eyes? What other part of the body would he otherwise have seen with?

 

 When Moshe delivers his plea, he begins by emphasizing that HaShem had begun to show him His Greatness and Powerful Hand. Surely, Moshe was not referring to having been shown these visually. We know that he was denied that privilege. Here, the term re'iah does not refer to physical seeing as it often does, but rather to an experience. Moshe had witnessed and experienced HaShem's greatness. He then asks to be allowed to cross over and "see" the good land, the good mountain and the Levanon. Surely, Moshe wanted more than to see the land. Here again, Moshe Rabbeinu is asking not to see the land but to live it and experience its greatness, to behold the Land of Israel. HaShem denies Moshe and grants him only to climb the mountain and see the land. That is why he is told to see with his eyes, indicating that he will not be granted the re'iah for which he yearned but rather, only a physical re'iah with his eyes.

 

There is another aspect of this passage that has always intrigued me. Moshe was standing to the east of Eretz Yisrael at this time. If he was being told to observe the land with his eyes, why would he need to look east? He should only have had to look north, south and west. I have yet to find a simple, practical (peshat) explanation for this.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: You were shown

Dikdukian: Raise the Valleys

Al Pi Cheshbon: Moshe's Pleas

Al Pi Cheshbon: Gemtrias off by 1


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Friday, August 9

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

Sefer Devarim is, for the most part, a summary of the events of the previous 40 years. Most of the major events are recapped throughout the sefer. This week's parsha focusses largely on the episode of the spies. After hearing the spies' grim report of Eretz Yisrael, B'nei Yisrael cried on that night (Bemidbar 14:1.) The midrash (Bemidbar 16:20) and the gemara (Sotah 35a) teach us that that night was the night of Tish'ah B'Av. HaShem said "You have wept gratuitously, I therefore shall designate this day for crying throughout the generations."

Although on a larger scale, this dooming of Tish'ah B'Av as a day for weeping may refer to all the terrible misfortunes that have befallen the Jewish people on this day, it is certainly a more specific reference to the destruction of the two Temples which happened on this day.

The connection here between the wrongdoing and the consequent punishment is greater than it may appear on the surface. It is more than just "You cried for no reason, I'll make you cry for a reason." It's not merely about the fact that they cried but the reason why they cried. The nationwide cry was a sign of acceptance of the spies' report and thus, a rejection of Eretz Yisrael an immediate and imminent reality. The destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the ensuing exile was Eretz Yisrael's rejection of us. With the episode of the spies, B'nei Yisrael showed a total lack of appreciation for the gift that HaShem wished to bestow upon us. Tish'ah B'Av was therefore designated as a day that would constantly serve as a reminder to us of what terrible consequences befall us when Eretz Yisrael is not given the respect it deserves. In these days, it should not be difficult to appreciate the importance of Eretz Yisrael and how hard we must fight to keep it. Certainly, recent world events have once again left the fate of the nation and the land hanging in the balance. May the joint efforts of all of Klal Yisroel help bring mashiach speedily and transform this month from eivel to yom tov and may we all return to artzeinu haKedoshah for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Don't you worry!

Dikdukian: Past and Future

AstroTorah: Like the Stars of the Heavens

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Friday, August 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

This week was the first yahrtzeit of my cousin, Mrs. Michelle Jakobovits. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Rochel Mirel bas Shmuel HaLevi.

 

Towards the end of the parsha, we are taught of the mitzvah of exiling one who killed by mistake, shogeig. If he leaves his designated city of exile, the close relative of the victim is allowed to kill him. There is a discussion in the mishnah (Makkos 11b) as to whether or not the killing of the killer is a mitzvah or not. R' Chaim Kanievsky makes an interesting observation on the exact wording of this parsha. Almost everywhere else that the Torah commands us to kill someone, the verb of the root misah is used, usually in the form "v'heimis." This is because it is considered killing but not murdering. Here, however, the verb veratzach is used, the same root as the commandment, "lo sirtzach," do not murder. He explains that even according to the opinion that it is a mitzvah to kill the killer, it is not an obligation but only a mitzvah if he does it. It is his choice. Therefore, it is referred to by the Torah, whether it is a mitzvah or not, as murdering.

 

It is interesting to note, that the part of the parsha dealing with the willful murderer (meizid) states that the relative of the victim shall kill the murderer and there the word "yamis" is used. According to the explanation of R' Chaim, it would suggest that in this instance, it is in fact an obligation for the relative to kill the murderer. 


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: The Cold has Passed

Dikdukian: Watch out for those Mapiks!

Dikdukian: The Interrogative

Al Pi Cheshbon: Splitting up the Animals


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, July 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

In the beginning of this week's parsha, B'nei Yisrael are once again counted. While examining the descendants of Reuven, the Torah tangentially discusses Dasan and Aviram and their involvement with Korach. Then the pasuk (26:9-11) states, "uvnei Korach lo meisu". R' Chaim Kanievsky asks in Ta'ama D'Kra that this pasuk seems to be out of place. Why would the Torah discuss Korach's sons here? If they are to be discussed at all, should it not be with the tribe of Levi?

 

He answers that while discussing the demise of Dasan and Aviram, one might be led to ask why they were punished so severely. After all, as Rashi writes at the beginning of parshas Korach, Dasan and Aviram were drawn into Korach's group because their camp was situated right next to Korach's - "oy l'rasha, oy lishcheino." So why did they deserve their ultimate demise if their actions were a product of their proximity to Korach? Therefore, the Torah tells us that Korach's sons didn't die. They did teshuvah and thus, were saved from their father's ill fate. Despite growing up in the same home as the evil man himself, they were able to see the error of his ways and turned away from his following. If his own sons were able to resist his influence, Dasan and Aviram had no excuse to fall back on.

 

This seemingly simple pasuk in the Torah is in fact coming to teach a tremendous lesson of responsibility. We must always be aware that our deeds and actions are completely under our control. At no time, and for no reason, may we shift the blame for our misgivings on the atmosphere or the people around us.


Have a good Shabbos.


Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato

Dikdukian:  I say Yericho, you say Yereicho
Dikdukian:  All of the brothers

Dikdukian: One Big Happy Family?

Dikdukian: Pinechas: What's in a Name?

Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

AstroTorah: What's your Sign? 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, July 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This past Thursday, 15 Tammuz, was the 16th yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander HaLevi.

The previous day was the 32nd yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 

Shabbos, 17 Tammuz, is the 20th yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel.

The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

 

At the beginning of this week's parsha, we find that Moav is frightened of B'nei Yisrael because of what they did to Sichon. Many are bothered by the fact that B'nei Yisrael are commanded not to wage war with Moav. So they need not have worried. However, it is unclear to me how exactly Moav would have known that. But I was once asked a more intriguing question concerning Balak's entire approach to B'nei Yisrael. Sichon met his demise only because he started up with B'nei Yisrael. B'nei Yisrael clearly had no intentions of war with Sichon and he was the one who came out and attacked. As long as Balak avoids a confrontation, what does he have to be afraid of? If he simply leaves B'nei Yisrael alone, his country is in no danger whatsoever.

 

Perhaps what frightened Moav was that they observed that as soon as B'nei Yisrael requested a passage through Sichon's land, that is when everything started to fall apart for him. Indeed, Sichon started the war, but what was he supposed to do? How is a country supposed to see such a request as a friendly gesture? The way Balak saw it, as soon as B'nei Yisrael asks for permission to go through the land, it means trouble. Now, in the parsha we are not told that any such request was sent to Moav. However, in the haftara of Chukas (Shoftim 11:17) we find that messengers were sent to Moav as well with the same request. Perhaps the episode of Balak happened after these messengers were sent and that is why he became frightened. When Balak saw his nation following the same course of events as that of Sichon, he felt threatened and saw fit to take preemptive action.

 

However, there is a much simpler approach to Balak's actions which teaches a great lesson. Perhaps Balak was simply misinformed and misguided. B'nei Yisrael's trouncing of Sichon's army had them looking like the aggressors at the end of the day. B'nei Yisrael began to be looked upon as a force of terror ripping through the region. Balak was not aware, or did not allow himself to be aware that B'nei Yisrael had no intentions of any involvement with him whatsoever. This whole parsha is therefore a clear example of ma'aseh avos siman labanim, a harbinger of events to follow for many generations. Throughout history, Jews have always been vilified on false pretenses. But in our days it is most glaringly evident. After the Holocaust there was an atmosphere of pity for the Jewish people and the State of Israel was a direct outgrowth thereof. But that only lasted for a fleeting moment. Israel has been blessed by HaShem with the strongest and most successful of armies. With the Divine gift of power and might, they have crushed their enemies to bitter defeat. But suddenly, we are looked upon as aggressors. Each war was a defensive battle but yet, we are looked upon as instigators and subsequently, occupiers. In sweeping, defensive attacks against terrorists, we are seen as terrorists ourselves. The incidence of misguided public opinion is far too great and far too obvious to even bother enumerating examples.  As we see in our parsha, this is old news. As the generations pass it seems evident that the Jews will always be misunderstood and misjudged in the public eye. It is something we will just have to live with.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges


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, July 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

Today, 9 Tammuz, is the 4th yahrtzeit of my sister-in-law, Batsheva Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Batsheva Blima, a"h bas HaRav Moshe Yosef HaLevi, ybl"t.

 

Towards the end of this week's parsha, B'nei Yisrael are confronted by Sichon and his mighty army (21:1-3). B'nei Yisrael made a vow to HaShem. The vow itself is cause for discussion in and of itself. In the end, HaShem delivered them and they defeated the Canaanites and destroyed their cities. They then named the place of their battle Charmah, destruction.

 

Charmah - that should sound familiar. Only two parshios ago, a small group from B'nei Yisrael rose up and charged towards Eretz Yisrael in an attempt to vindicate themselves for the sin of the spies which had doomed them to 40 years in the desert. As we know (14:45) They were quickly wiped out by the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt on the mountain and were beaten unto HaCharmah. Rashi comments that the place was named for the events that transpired there, namely the destruction of that group from B'nei Yisrael. Being that the battle site in this week's parsha was named on the spot, it is safe to assume that these were not the same place.

 

I believe the identical names given to these places is surely no coincidence. The Charmah of Shelach was named for a tragic destruction of a group of over-zealous fighters. More importantly, it symbolized that HaShem had put His final stamp on the 40-year decree. It became clear that no act of repentance could possibly overturn the decree. The aron stayed put and did not go out to accompany the fighters, thus devoiding them of Divine protection. This defeat brought home the reality of B'nei Yisrael's failure.

 

It was now many years later. Most of B'nei Yisrael was now made up of those who would merit to enter Eretz Yisrael. This was the first battle that B'nei Yisrael would fight since that fateful defeat at the hands of Amaleik and Canaan. It did not get off to a good start, either. But B'nei Yisrael endured with prayer and devotion and through their prayers HaShem led them to victory over their adversaries. This battle symbolized the turnaround from the previous generation. The dramatic defeat of decades ago made the clear statement to their forebearers that they would not enter Eretz Yisrael. Contrarily, this dramatic victory over Sichon indicated that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael had begun. To accentuate this turnaround, they named the site of this great battle the very same name as the site of the previous battle. The name of the site where B'nei Yisrael were once smitten by the Amalekites and Canaanites was now the very same name of the place where they devastated Sichon and his army on their way to entering Eretz Yisrael.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: It wasn't thrown


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, July 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

One of the more intriguing challenges in understanding the uprising led by Korach is putting a finger on exactly what Korach's main complaint was. What was he objecting to and what did he seek to gain? The words of Korach himself don't provide very much detail but one of Moshe's response is more telling. (16:10) "HaShem has brought you and your bretheren, the sons of Levi, closer and now you also want kehunah." It appears Korach desired to be a kohein as well.

 

However, Rashi (16:1) provides his own assessment of Korach's raison d'être. He was jealous of the appointment of Elitzaphan ben Uziel as the nasi of the children of Kehas. Korach staked a claim based on his father, Yitzhar, being older than Uziel. This, of course, begs the question: which one was it?

 

Gur Aryeh offers a reconciliation of Rashi's words and what Moshe later says to Korach. It was really the appointment of Elitzaphan that was fueling Korach's revolt. However, his confrontation with Moshe could not survive without a significant following. He needed to bring a large group behind him in order to be able to make a convincing argument. If his platform was nothing but objecting to the appointment of Elitzaphan, it would have been seen as a completely selfish endeavor. He could not possibly gather a following. So, he made the movement about "the people," the Levite people, at least. His campaign to oppose Moshe therefore became about the kehunah so that he could build a following of men who – at least as far as they were aware – shared his goals.

 

Perhaps another understanding can be offered. When Korach's confrontation with Moshe came to be, it was, in fact, about the kehunah. Rashi is not coming to explain what the final showdown was about but rather, how it came to be. What was it that fueled Korach to begin with? It wasn't as big the kehunah. Korach was upset about the appointment of Elitzaphan which, itself, might not have created such a significant kerfuffle. But, as jealousy tends to do, Korach's feelings got the most of him and led him to object to Moshe's leadership on a much grander scale.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Just do it!
Dikdukian: Flee Market
Dikdukian: Vayikach Korach


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