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Friday, November 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for Moshe ben Rachel.

 

In this week's parsha, as Avraham ages, he makes arrangements to ensure Yitzchak finds a worthy bride. We are told (24:1) that Avraham was ba bayamim. But we were already told at the beginning of last week's parsha that Avraham and Sarah were zekeinim, ba'im bayamim. Why does it need to be stated again here?

 

Sure enough, this question is raised in Shaarei Aharon. He discusses a number of different answers, most of which center around a common theme. The Torah is not simply stating a fact here since we already knew that. Rather, the Torah is explaining the reasoning behind Avraham's inspiration to act at this time. Seeing his wife pass on, Avraham feared his days too were numbered was inspired to find a wife for Yitzchak.

 

Tur offers an interesting approach based on the Midrash. Just as Sarah experienced rejuvenation and return to youth in order to enable her to conceive Yitzchak, Avraham experienced a similar rejuvenation. When the Torah recounts here that Avraham was zakein, ba bayamim, that is for the second time.

 

I suggest a slightly different definition of ba bayamim which might explain this apparent repetition. The term does not have a specific connotation but simply means "on in years" and can take on different meaning in context. In Vayeira, the rest of the pasuk makes it quite clear what the subject was. They were well shy of the average life expectancy in those days so it could not have referred to general old age. Rather, with regards to their ability to conceive children, Avraham and Sarah were on in years and those days were behind them. Here, though, it is clear, as many commentaries explain that Avraham was reaching a point where he felt his days were numbered. Fortunately, though, he still had many good years left.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash

Dikdukian: My Master's Brother(s)

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Friday, November 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira

This week's shtikle, as per tradition for Parshas Vayeria, is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben avi mori Reuven Pinchas, whose yahrtzeit is tomorrow, the 18th of Cheshvan.

 

This week's shtikle is courtesy of R' Ari Storch:

In the beginning of the parsha we see that Avraham Avinu went to tremendous lengths in order to prepare feasts for the passersby that were lucky enough to be his guests. During the feast that he served the three angels that visited him after his bris, he had Sarah Imeinu make bread from three se'ah of fine flour, he had three oxen slaughtered to serve three separate tongues with mustard, and he had butter and milk brought to them. We see clearly how dedicated Avraham was in his hachnasas orchim. (See Bereishis 18 and Rashi's commentary.)

 

It is interesting to see that Avraham did not seem to have anything prepared for these wayfarers. We are taught that Avraham epitomized kindness. One would have thought that he would have had food prepared for the occasional guest that might accept an invitation. Nevertheless, in this week's storyline we see that Avraham clearly asked the visitors to rest for a bit while he went to prepare their food. Why would Avraham risk losing these guests by not having food ready for their possible arrival? The answer is simple. Avraham wanted everything to be fresh. What sojourner could pass up a fresh meal filled with the choicest foods? Avraham knew that he would not lose guests if he asked them to relax while he prepared them a meal that was fit for a king. Therefore, he purposefully did not have food ready for their arrival. Additionally, while they rested Avraham would have ample time to strike up a conversation with them and teach them about HaShem.

 

It is interesting to note that Avraham clearly wanted everything to be fresh so that he could serve his guests the finest delicacies. The meat was freshly slaughtered and the bread was freshly baked. Why then was the milk and butter only brought to the meal and not milked and churned that day? (See Bereishis 18:8) Perhaps, the answer lies in the date of this monumental feast, Pesach. (Rashi, Bereishis 18:10) It is prohibited to milk animals in order to drink their milk on Yom Tov, and it is also prohibited to churn butter on Yom Tov. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 505:1; and Rema 510:5) As such, Avraham would not want to violate this holy day. Therefore, he had butter and milk prepared in anticipation that guests might arrive, but the rest of the meal was prepared on the spot.

 


Have a good Shabbos.


Eliezer Bulka

WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

AstroTorah: A Scratch on the Wall

AstroTorah: Witnesses to Sedom's Destruction

AstroTorah: The Mysterious Midrash by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: I Can't Believe it's not Fresh by R' Ari Storch

Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com

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Friday, November 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Noach

The world was created with Adam HaRishon as its first inhabitant. Thus, the generic Hebrew term for a person is ben Adam, son of Adam. However, the world was destroyed and civilization began anew with Noach taking on the roll as the father of all humankind. Nevertheless, in the Talmud and other halachic sources, the term ben Noach is used specifically to refer to gentiles. We do not include Noach as one of the forefathers. Rather, Avraham is considered the father of Judaism. Considering that Noach is lauded as a righteous man in his generation, why is it that he is dismissed as a forefather and is not a vital player in our ancestry?

 

R' Ephraim Eisenberg, z"l, of Ner Yisroel, offers a possible approach. Rashi writes (7:7) that although Noach fulfilled HaShem's every command, he did not enter the ark until the rain actually began to fall. Although there are many interpretations offered to shed a more positive light on this comment, Rashi undeniably describes Noach as miketanei amanah, from the lesser believers. It is this trait that disqualifies Noach as a forefather. There are two types of believers. There are those who obey HaShem's word for no reason other than to fulfill their Divine command. Others, although faithful, are swayed by other forces and influences. Noach was not faithless. However, with this display, he placed himself firmly in the second category. He did not enter the ark because he was told to but because it began to rain.

 

In next week's parsha, Avraham Avinu exhibits the exact opposite trait. He is asked by HaShem to leave his place of birth and journey to a foreign land. Rashi comments that Avraham was told that the move would be to his benefit. Nevertheless, the pasuk recounts, (12:4) "And Avram went as HaShem told him." Avraham did not pick up and leave because of the personal gain that was promised to him, but merely because he was told to do so by HaShem. This is the virtue to which we aspire in the service of HaShem and that is why Avraham is a forefather and not Noach.

 

***

 

On the lighter side (since, as illustrated below, the teiva was quite heavy): A good friend of mine and noted author, Mordechai Bodek, wrote a homourous book called Extracts From Noah's Diary. Check it out!


Have a good Shabbos.


Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: The Weight of the Teiva and The Constant Rate of Recession 
AstroTorah: Sailing the Friendly Skies by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: The World's First Boat?

Dikdukian: Noach's Three Sons


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, October 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Bereishis

This coming Sunday, 28 Tishrei, is the 18th yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, z"l.

This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.

 

When Adam HaRishon is confronted by HaShem following the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as, he argues that (3:12) "the woman that You placed with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate." Rashi comments that here Adam showed his ingratitude to HaShem for providing him with a wife.

It would seem at first glance that the ingratitude was the blaming of his wife for his own misconduct. However, I suggest that the ingratitude was not as much in what he said but how he said it. The creation of woman came out of the realization that man was no good on his own. Without a soulmate, man was simply incomplete and he needed woman to help him achieve that completion and HaShem provided that for Adam. The word imadi used by Adam to mean "with me," does not show an appreciation of this quality of woman. By using the word imadi, Adam showed that he saw woman as an opposing force and did not appreciate her true virtues. With this he showed ingratitude to the gift that HaShem had given him.

The word li, however, has a much different connotation. It implies for me, for my own good, as Rashi explains in many places. That form of the word meaning for me is always used to suggest personal benefit (see Rashi Bereishis 12:1). Had Adam argued ha'ishah asher nasata li, hi nasnah li, the woman whom you gave me for my benefit gave me from the tree, I suspect that Rashi's comment might not apply.

Interestingly, I recently heard a rather unique understanding of this pasuk from the Ba'al HaTurim. He explains that Chava indeed hit Adam with a piece of the tree until he listened to her!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: And the Days Was
AstroTorah: The Two Luminaries

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

Sunday, October 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Upsherin / Siyum / Sukkos

Today, Erev Yom Tov, we celebrated the upherin of our dear son, Yitzchak. In conjunction, my son Efrayim and I made a siyum on mishnayos seder Nezikin. Here are the thoughts I shared at the event:

 

At any of these "lifecycle" events, I like to try and share a perspective on chinuch and the challenges that are faced and what lies ahead, hopefully with some relevant connections to other events of the day. The last Mishnah in Horayos lays out the hierarchy of kedushah within klal Yisrael. A kohein takes precedence over a levi, a levi over a Yisrael, a Yisrael over a mamzeir, and so on. However, the very last statement of our seder declares that this is only when all else is equal. A mamzeir who is a talmid chacham takes precedence over even a kohein gadol who is bereft of Torah knowledge.

 

The lesson this mishnah is teaching is a very poignant one, not only in the framework of yiddishkeit, but with regards to society in general. In life, there will always be those are imbued with some degree of advantage over another – those who are blessed with yichus, or an exceptional memory or financial or other stature, and those who are not. But the opportunity is always there for anyone to strive and overcome and fulfill their full potential, or even greater. Certainly, in the land(s) of opportunity in which we live, if we take a long hard look, we see that this is true. But as this mishnah is teaching, in yiddishkeit it is always true.

 

In truth, this idea can be found within the themes of Sukkos, as well. The four species we shake daily are quite an eclectic mix. We have the esrog, a fruit whose inherent beauty is so apparent, the Torah chose to name it simply by that trait – hadar. The lulav might be slightly less glorious but still quite majestic when it hangs from a palm tree. The hadassim are smaller yet still bright green and pleasant. And finally, we have the aravos which don't boast any impressive features. Nevertheless, these four species come together and each one is dependent on the other. Even the sukkah itself is an embodiment of this idea. The Torah could have commanded us to create the temporary roof out of beautiful greenery. However, the gemara )Sukkah 12a) teaches us from the pasuk that we are instructed to use the pesoles, the waste we would otherwise throw away. This waste "rises above," so to speak and becomes the very essence of the mitzvah we perform for a full week.

 

This is certainly an important lesson we wish to pass on to our son, Yitzchak, as he takes that next step in becoming a man, beginning to learn about and do more and more mitzvos, as well as a valuable lesson to take into the chag of Sukkos.

 

Have a good Yom Tov

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:



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

Sunday, September 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

On the first day of Rosh HaShanah, the Torah reading comes from parshas Vayeira. It begins with the conception and birth of Yitzchak to Avraham and Sarah after many years of barrenness. This is a fitting section to be read on this day as the gemara (Rosh HaShanah 10b) teaches us that it was on Rosh HaShanah that Sarah, Rachel and Chanah were "remembered" and their prayers answered. The ensuing episodes of Yitzchak's weaning and the expulsion of Hagar and Yishmael are all directly pertinent to Yitzchak's upbringing and are justly included in the reading. The last two aliyos deal with the pact made between Avimelech, king of the Pelishtim, and Avraham that they and their descendants shall do no harm to each other. On the surface, there does not seem to be any relevance to Rosh HaShanah. The first three aliyos contain 21 pesukim, conceivably enough to comprise a complete Torah reading, even on Shabbos when we require seven aliyos. Why, then, is this section included in the reading?

 

I suggest that this section of the reading does in fact have a significant connection to the Rosh HaShanah experience. The central theme of the Mussaf service on Rosh HaShanah is the trio of malchios, zichronos and shofaros - kingship, remembrances and shofars. The middle of the three, remembrances, refers specifically to recalling the various covenants made with our forefathers. This section which is read at the end of the day's Torah reading impresses upon us the significance of a covenant. The pact made between Avimelech and Avraham, later reaffirmed by Yitzchak, was binding over many generations. Despite being gravely mistreated and persecuted by the Pelishtim, Avimelech's descendants, after entering Eretz Yisrael, on two occasions (Yeshoshua 15:63, Shmuel II 5) B'nei Yisrael refrained from any offensive against the Pelishtim. In the Midrash (Sifrei Re'eih 12:17, referenced by Rashi) R' Yehoshua ben Karchah teaches that it was within their powers to do battle with them, but they were not allowed because of the covenant between Avraham and Avimelech. 

 

Perhaps, the inclusion of this episode in the Torah reading is in parallel with the zichronos aspect of our prayers. Indeed, we are guilty many times over of violating our covenant with HaShem to keep the Torah in its entirety. Nevertheless, we beseech of HaShem to remember, so to speak, the covenant made with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov never to forsake us despite our transgressions, in the same manner in which we faithfully upheld our accord with the Pelishtim.


Have a good Yom Tov and Shanah Tovah.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Remember us for the Good

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 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

This week's parsha begins with the laws pertaining to the bringing of bikurim. The bringing of the bikurim is accompanied by a recitation of a number of verses known as viduy bikurim. The first pasuk that he must recite reads (26:3) "higadti hayom laShem elokecha ki vasi el ha'aretz asher nishba HaShem la'avoseinu..." Rashi on pasuk 10 writes that due to the possessive reference to the forefathers in this pasukavoseinu, a ger (convert) who brings bikurim does not recite the viduy for the land was never promised to his forefathers. This ruling is based on the Sifrei and the mishnah (Bikurim 1:4). However, the Yerushalmi (Bikurim 1:4) reaches the opposite conclusion. The halachic ruling is further a matter of dispute in Tosafos (Baba Basra 81a). Rambam (Hilchos Bikurim 4:3) writes that a ger does in fact read the viduy for the reason given in the Yerushalmi, that the word avoseinu can be interpreted as referring to Avraham Avinu who is called av hamon goyim. Thus, even geirim can claim Avraham as a father.

    What is puzzling about this ruling of the Rambam is that with regards to viduy ma'aser, the next issue dealt with in the parsha, he rules (Hilchos Ma'aser Sheini 11:17) that the ger does not read the viduy. The viduy for ma'aser contains the identical term, la'avoseinu. However, Rambam's ruling is due to the reference made to Eretz Yisrael (26:15) as ha'adamah asher nasata lanu, the land that You gave us and geirim do not have a portion in the land. But a similar phrase is found in viduy bikurim, (26:3ha'aretz asher nishba HaShem la'avoseinu lases lanu. What is the difference between the wording in viduy bikurim and the wording of viduy ma'aser that led Rambam to rule differently?

The sefer Kapos Temarim suggests that the difference lies in the tense of the reference to Eretz Yisrael. In viduy ma'aser we refer to the land that "was given" in the past tense. This would exclude geirim because they were not given a portion in the land when they came initially. However, in viduy bikurim we refer to the land that was sworn "to be given" in the future. There is a pasuk in Yechezkel that suggests that geirim will ultimately get a portion in Eretz Yisrael. So this pasuk does not exclude geirim. Although in viduy bikurim there is also a reference (26:10) to the land that "was given," this refers to the land that he actually owns and not to the land that was promised to the forefathers from which the geirim were excluded. Therefore, geirim may read viduy bikurim.

The sefer Aruch LaNer suggests another difference between ma'aser and bikurim. The ger's reading of the viduy is predicated upon the word la'avoseinu referring to Avraham Avinu. However, the word la'avoseinu in viduy ma'aser appears in connection to the promise of eretz zavas chalav udvash, the land flowing with milk and honey. The forefathers were never promised a land of milk and honey. The reference to milk and honey was not mentioned until B'nei Yisrael were in Egypt. Since la'avoseinu could not refer to Avraham Avinu in this instance, it must exclude the ger from reading this viduy.

I thought that perhaps another difference might be that in viduy bikurim the land is referred to as ha'aretz whereas in viduy ma'aser it is referred to as ha'adamah. Perhaps ha'aretz refers to the country as a whole. The privilege to benefit from Eretz Yisrael surely does not exclude geirim. The country was given to them just as it was to anyone else. Therefore, there is no reason to exclude them. But the word adamah refers more to the ground itself which connotes actual property. Real property was something that geirim were not granted and therefore, they are excluded.

Eliezer Bulka

WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim 


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