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Friday, July 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

The end of parshas Matos details the conquering and settling of the east side of the Jordan River by the tribes of Reuvein, Gad and half of Menasheh. The very last pasuk recounts Novach's capture of a series of cities and subsequently naming them after himself, Novach. Rashi dwells on the words "vayikra lah Novach" which should have featured a mapik heh in the word lah. He explains that the word is without a mapik heh, therefore rendering it "softer," because the name of that city did not endure.

Rav Hirsch writes that if Novach's naming of this city did not last, surely there must be a reason, some deficiency in his actions. He explains that while it is the way of the nations to have cities named after oneself, this is not typical practice among B'nei Yisrael. It puts undue importance on one's possessions as his true accomplishments when in truth, it is one's deeds that are his true legacy. (Indeed, the only city name in Eretz Yisrael that comes to mind as possibly being named after a person is Shechem – not a Jew.) It was Novach's naming the city after himself that was the reason why the name did not last.

Rav Shimon Schwab, in Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeiva, points out that the previous pasuk recounts Yair's naming his captured land Chavos Yair, the villages of Yair. How come Novach's city did not retain its name but we find no such fate for that of Yair's? He explains that there is an important nuance which differentiates the two names. Novach gave the city his exact name. This was an indication that from Novach's perspective, this city was the very embodiment of himself. Yair, conversely, named the city "The Villages of Yair." The simple addition of that extra word made clear that there was a separation between the man and his possessions. These were his villages but it wasn't him.

 Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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Friday, July 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

This week's parsha begins by recounting the details of Pinechas's heroic act at the end of last week's which brought an abrupt end to the devastating plague. The gemara in Sanhedrin (82b), the masechta on which the Daf Yomi cycle is about to embark, tells of an exchange between the Heavenly angels and HaShem in which HaShem defends Pinechas as a "kanai ben kanai," a zealot, the son of a zealot. Rashi explains that Pinechas's actions are being linked to those of his ancestor, Levi, in attacking wiping out the city of Shechem to defend the honour of his sister and his father's family. Ironically, the original act was carried out by a tandem of Shimon and Levi whereas here, Levi was pitted against Shimon.

The similarities between the two episodes run much deeper than just the initial act. Shimon and Levi attacked Shechem without the consent of their father, Yaakov. For this they drew much parental criticism. The focal point of that rebuke (Bereishis 34:30) appears to be the grave public relations ramifications of their act. Yaakov was concerned that news of this shocking incident would invite an invasion from the surrounding nations. Miraculously, however, we are told (34:35) that the fear of the Lord prevented anyone from chasing after Yaakov and his family.

Pinechas also took spontaneous action with the awareness that he would not be met with universal approval. Indeed, the very same gemara recounts the ensuing ridicule that Pinechas endured. Here, too, public relations were a significant consideration. A princess of Midyan was killed and such a high-profile incident could easily have brought on a war in an instant. Nevertheless, Midyan does not take action. (However, as we have discussed previously, according to some commentaries, they were plotting revenge.) Even though B'nei Yisrael are commanded to bring the war to them, that did not happen immediately.

Both acts of zealotry involved not only possible physical danger but subjection to public shaming, making them all the more heroic. And in both instances, Divine intervention saw to it that there was no negative blowback from the affected or surrounding nations.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev
Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato
Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

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Friday, July 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This Shabbos is the yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 

This Sunday is the yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander.

Tuesday, Shiv'ah Asar B'Tamuz, is the yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

 

When the elders of Moav and Midyan came to try to hire Bil'am, the pasuk (22:7) recounts that they brought kesamim with them. Rashi writes that the Midyanites went in with a plan as to how to determine Bil'am's legitimacy. They said, "If he comes with us this time, he is legitimate. If he tells us to delay, there is no purpose." Once he said "sleep here tonight," they saw that he had no hope and they left him. The GR"A points out the inconsistency in the terminology used by Rashi. It is observed in the Hebrew as Rashi changes terms from "Yeish bo mamash" to "Ein bo to'eles" to "Ein bo tikvah."

 

The GR"A explains that Bil'am professed to be on a higher level of prophecy than Moshe. Although Moshe was above all other prophets in that he may speak to HaShem whenever he wished, Bil'am claimed to be even greater, in that he was "yodei'a da'as Elyon," that he didn't even have to speak to HaShem but that he already knew what He was "thinking," as it were. Therefore, the Midyanites reasoned, if he comes with us right away, it is indeed true that he is better than Moshe - yeish bo mamash - there is legitimacy to his claim. If he tells us to wait then that means he has to confer with HaShem. Although he might still be a great prophet, he is no better than Moshe so why should they side with Bil'am any more than Moshe. Therefore, there is no "purpose" (to'eles). When they saw that he required them to stay the night, they realized that he could only communicate with HaShem at night, which put him well below Moshe on the prophecy scale. Then they saw that he had no hope (tikvah) and they were wasting their time so they left him.
 
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

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

Friday, June 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

This coming Monday, 9 Tammuz, is the second 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.

The beginning of parshas Chukas deals with the mitzvah of the parah adumah, (which will not be referred to as the Red Cow or Heifer because it probably was not really red, but that's for another time.) Parah adumah is well-known as the textbook chok, mitzvah without reasoning. Sefer HaChinuch writes that he will not give a reasoning for the mitzvah of parah adumah as he does for most of the other mitzvos for even Shlomo HaMelech could not find the reasoning for it. R' Yaakov Kamenetsky writes, in Emes L'Yaakov, that to give a reasoning for the miztvah would be against the very reasoning for the mitzvah itself. That is to say, that the essence of the mitzvah of parah adumah is that there is no reasoning to it.

 

Rashi at the end of perek 19 parables the mitzvah of parah adumah, an atonement for the sin of the golden calf, to the child of a maidservant who had "soiled" himself in the palace of the king, that it is incumbent upon the mother of the child to come and clean up the mess. Ramban and Kuzari write that the sin of the golden calf was not pure avodah zarah. B'nei Yisrael feared that Moshe had died and were afraid of losing their connection with HaShem and formed the golden calf so that the Shechinah would rest on it. Nevertheless, it was avodah zarah. This was a sin of the intuition. They did not turn away from HaShem, per se, but rather, they devised new, foreign methods to receive His Presence.

 

Afikei Yehudah writes that the meaning of Rashi's parable is that the "palace of the king" refers to the mind. By committing this sin of the intuition, B'nei Yisrael soiled the mind. The way to repent for this sin was to be given a mitzvah that cleans out the mind by keeping it out of the picture. A mitzvah which the mind cannot begin to understand is the perfect atonement for a sin for which the mind was responsible. (See also Rambam at the end of Hilchos Me'ilah on the importance of refraining from trying to understand the mitzvos in one's mind.) 


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Since we will all hopefully be saying Kiddush Levana this motzaei Shabbos: Let's Face It
Dikdukian: It wasn't thrown


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

Friday, June 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

A short thought since the hour is late: At the beginning of this week's parsha is the episode of Korach and his rebellion against Moshe. A famous question that is asked regarding this series of events is why Moshe did not pray on the behalf of Korach and his men that they not perish as he did for other groups of sinners.

 

I heard the following answer from R' Elie Wolf but I do not recall the origin. Rashi tells us (Shemos 20:2) that when B'nei Yisrael sinned with the Golden Calf, Moshe's argument to HaShem was that when He commanded the first two of the aseres hadibros, he spoke only to Moshe as the verb used is in the singular, and not to the rest of the nation. Here, (16:3) Rashi explains that Korach's argument was that Moshe was no better than anyone else for everyone heard "Anochi HaShem" at Har Sinai. This very argument uproots Moshe's defense of all of B'nei Yisrael and would retroactively incriminate them. Therefore, Moshe could not pray on his behalf.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Just do it!
Dikdukian: Flee Market
Dikdukian: Vayikach Korach

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Friday, June 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Beha'alosecha

Tomorrow, 16 Sivan, is the Yahrtzeit of R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi.

In this week's parsha, B'nei Yisrael are instructed to bring what would be their only korban Pesach in the desert. Ohr HaChayim points out a number of intriguing anomalies in the introduction to this event. First, the conventional way for dates to be presented in the Torah is the month followed by the year. For example, the very beginning of sefer Bemidbar: "On the first day of the second month, in the second year." In our case, however, the order is reversed.

Second, this command is different than others in that it is not introduced with Moshe being charged to speak to B'nei Yisrael. Rather, it is simply stated that B'nei Yisrael shall do the Pesach in its time. In that instruction, the vuv appears to be an additive vuv, as if it is connected to something previous. Lastly, what the necessity for this commandment in the first place? The korban Pesach offering was an existing mitzvah. Why did B'nei Yisrael need to be told to do what they were already commanded to do?

Ohr HaChayim offers a fascinating approach. It is stated (Shemos 12:43) regarding the korban Pesach that a ben neichar, a foreigner, may not partake of the Pesach. Following the transgression of the golden calf, B'nei Yisrael were not clear as to whether they had a status of ben neichar. It was therefore unclear if they were even permitted to bring the korban Pesach. Therefore, the year is written first because it is most significant. Despite the fact that this was the second year, and thus after the sin of the golden calf, B'nei Yisrael were nevertheless commanded to bring the Pesach. This charge is not meant to be understood as a commandment, rather, it is a granting of permission to bring the korban and that is why it does not follow the same form as other charges given to Moshe to relay to the nation.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Piles of Quail 
Dikdukian: The Impure

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, June 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Naso

This week's parsha begins with the counting of the descendants of Gershon and the listing of their responsibilities with regard to the carrying of the mishkan as B'nei Yisrael traveled, followed by the same for Merari. With the significant interruption of Shavuos, we might tend to forget where we left off. This is actually a continuation of a process that began at the end of parshas Bemidbar with the counting of the descendants of Kehas. The obvious question is why are the three sons of Levi split up? Why are they not all together in the same parsha?

 

I found the identical answer in the Abarbanel and Ta'ama D'kra. First, it should be noted that Gershon is in fact older than Kehas. Nevertheless, since Aharon and Moshe descended from Kehas, his descendants were given the honour of handling the holiest of the mishkan's vessels - the aron, the shulchan and the menorah. Therefore, it was fitting that they be listed before Gershon. However, the Torah did not want to deny Gershon the honour of the first-born. Therefore, instead of being listed first among Levi's three sons Gershon was given the beginning of a parsha. Obviously, the only way to accomplish that is to split them up.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Aleph's and Ayin's

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