The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, January 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

The irony is hard to ignore. The United States is now hours away from inaugurating a new leader on the eve of Shabbas Parshas Shemos. While the path that lies ahead under this new leadership is unknown, the parsha certainly provide numerous glimpses into Moshe's exceptional virtues qualifying him to lead our nation. One incident that stands out is the altercation in which Moshe kills the Egyptian officer. The Abarbanel asks some fundamental questions on the episode. The pasuk recounts (2:11) that Moshe saw an Egyptian hitting an ish ivri mei'echav, a Hebrew man from his brethren. The word mei'echav seems superfluous. Surely, if he is a Hebrew, he is from his brethren. Then, when Moshe kills the Egyptian it says that he looked both ways and saw that there was no man. If that is the case, how did Dasan know that he had done it as is evident from the events that followed?

 

Abarbanel offers a novel interpretation of the events. Contrary to the more popular understandings, there were in fact many present at the time. The word mei'echav is telling us that the Egyptian removed this one man from the group of his (Moshe's) brothers and began to beat him only. Moshe saw this and looked both ways and saw that there was no man. This is not to say there were no other individuals present. Rather, he observed that no one was willing to be a man and to stand up in defence of his fellow Jew. Moshe understood that he needed to be the one to rise to the occasion and do something about it so he killed the Egyptian. But, it was indeed in front of many.

 

There is an alternative answer to Abarbanel's second question. According to the midrash (Shemos Rabba) the man being flogged by the Egyptian was none other than Dasan himself. It is therefore no surprise that he was aware of Moshe's having killed the Egyptian. But it paints an even uglier picture of what went ensued. Dasan challenges Moshe the next day, saying, (2:14) "are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?" Not only is he unnecessarily pointing a finger at Moshe for a noble deed, he is showing complete ingratitude for having saved his own life.

 

The above interpretations fit well with Rashi's second interpretation of Moshe's reaction when he states, (ibid) "Alas, it is known." The obvious meaning is that his killing of the Egyptian became known. But Rashi offers another interpretation. Moshe was stating, "I was always bothered, why the Israelites were deserving of such oppression. Now I know they are deserving." This episode brought out the worst in B'nei Yisrael. First, a crowd watches idly as their brother is beaten. And then Dasan fails to acknowledge Moshe's valour and even turns it against him.

 

We are certainly all hopeful that this new era in history will bring about more peace and prosperity for us as a nation but we must be mindful not to depend on others for our defence. It is incumbent upon us to stand up and do whatever is in our powers.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikduian: Dikduk Observations on Shemos by Eliyahu Levin

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Friday, January 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

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

As well, the shtikle is also dedicated bizchus a refuah sheleimah for the following:

Tamar Adina bas Kayna Shulamis

Chana Faiga bas Shaindel Rachel

Yochanan ben Gella Rachel

Moshe ben Mirel

 

    In pasuk 48:22 Yaakov refers to what seems to be a certain piece of land that he captured "becharbi uvkashti." The simple translation of these words is "with my sword and my bow." However, Targum Onkelos translates "bitzlosi uv'vausi", with my prayer and my supplication. Meshech Chochma (Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk) explains the use of these two words as the translation of the words in the pasuk and the difference between the two types of prayer to which Onkelos refers.


    The word tzelosi refers to the regular prayers that have been specifically prescribed by the Anshei Keneses HaGedolah. The halachah regarding these prayers is that one does not require specific kavanah for these prayers to work. Therefore, it is the translation of charbi, sword. A sword is likewise used in close battle and requires little control in order to strike the target. For the most part, it "kills" in any circumstance.


    Ba'usi, which literally means "needs," refers to one's own personal prayers to HaShem outside of those daily prayers mentioned above. With these prayers one requires specific kavanah in order for them to be at all effective. Simply reciting the words is not enough. These prayers are likened to the keshes, the bow and arrow. Without a skilled shooter, it is ineffective and will more often than not miss its target. It requires specific aim in order for the arrow to reach its desired destination.


    Interestingly, the word uvkashti without its vowels may be read ubakashasi, and my requests. The word could just as easily have been vekashti, omitting repetition of the bais as a prefix. Perhaps the specific choice of words is a hint to Onkelos' interpretation.


Have a good Shabbos. Chazak Chazak veNischazeik!

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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Friday, January 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

    After Yoseif finally reveals his identity to his brothers the atmosphere appears to be rather tense. The tension is apparently broken when Yoseif engages in a tearful embrace with Binyamin, followed by a similar gesture with each of the other brothers (45:14-15). As the pasuk clearly states, only then did the brothers begin to talk with Yoseif. Rashi explains that they were so ashamed that they were left literally speechless. It was only after they saw Yoseif crying and they knew his intentions were peaceful that they were able to speak with him.

 

    What is puzzling about this comment of Rashi was that Yoseif's revelation was clearly preceded by a very genuine, whole-hearted cry which was heard throughout the land of Egypt. Yoseif was not one to hide his emotions and there did not seem to be a hint of anger in the dialog that followed. Nevertheless, the brothers were still nervous. What seems to have put the brothers at ease was not necessarily Yoseif's crying alone. It was the equal treatment of all his brothers. Surely, they expected Yoseif to deal kindly with Reuvein, who sincerely attempted to save him, or the other brothers who were less involved. But what about Yehudah, the mastermind behind the sale of Yoseif, or Shimon, who is "credited" with throwing him into the pit? However, the pasuk clearly equates all brothers when recounting Yoseif's tearful embraces. Not only was he crying and full of loving, brotherly emotion, it was clear to the brothers that his feelings were equal for all the brothers, regardless of their involvement in his sale. Only then did they feel comfortable conversing with Yoseif. (Perhaps this interpretation can be read into Rashi's comment as well.)

 

    Another approach is offered by David Farkas in HaDoresh ViHamivakesh (recently published second edition):

The words "after this" seem extra. To me this seems to be the precise culmination of the events that occurred so long ago. Before, in 35:5, the brothers were described as "not being able to speak with [Joseph] in peace". Now, after they had seen the Hand of God in all its awesome clarity, only "after this" were they finally able to speak with their brother! 


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 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

This coming Tuesday, 5 Teves, is the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Israel Frankel. The shtikle is dedicated l'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.

Although from time to time, I do establish connections from the parsha to current events, I never saw myself doing so with the world of show business. But there was a series of events that transpired this week whose connection to the parsha are simply undeniable. Please excuse my willingness to mix the mundane with the holy.

Late last week a relatively famous actress (don't be fooled by the name, only her father was Jewish) suffered a heart attack at the age of 60. Just four days later, she passed away. Sadly, her mother passed away the very next day at the age of 84. It was reported that the very last words she uttered before suffering a stroke were that she just wanted to be with her daughter. It is certainly not all that uncommon for spouses or other loved ones to pass away within close proximity of each other. It is indeed a stark reminder of how much power the mind truly has over the body.

Yaakov Avinu offers us our first detailed insight into the anguished heart of a parent suffering loss. The pain he endured as he learned of Yoseif's apparent fate would surely have been enough to bear. But as the plot thickens in this week's parsha, he is faced with the prospect of even further loss. In his initial refusal to allow Binyamin to join the brothers as they returned to Mitzrayim, he declares (42:38), "if disaster were to befall him, you will send my gray hairs down to she'ol in grief." Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar, points out that this language is somewhat stronger than the words chosen by Yaakov when he heard the news regarding Yoseif. There (37:35), he was merely stating that his mourning would last forever and follow him all the way to his grave. Here, however, he is hinting to something far more ominous. Enduring the grief of the loss of Binyamin would certainly hasten, if not immediately bring his demise.

The effect of the mind on the function of the body is by no means a new discovery. It was a phenomenon to which Yaakov Avinu was well-attuned. Indeed, the feelings and emotions expressed by Yaakov and felt by all parents, and the undeniable force that is the love a parent has for a child, are so perfectly encapsulated by the emphatic final three words of the first aliyah of next week's parsha, "venafsho keshurah benafsho."

**********

I feel it's slightly unfair for the shtikle to strike such an exclusively somber note, especially on Chanukah. So, I will end with a nice thought I recently heard from – believe it or not – a robot. For many years now, the Chanukah House has been a basic staple in Baltimore. One of the more entertaining features is an animatronic Rebbe who speaks to you as if he's real. His motions and voice are controlled by someone on the inside and he is aware of his surroundings by means of a camera so he actually carries on real conversations. Last night, he offered the following: Why do we wish people a Chanukah samei'ach? There is no specific mitzvah of simchah on Chanukah as there is on the other major holidays?

Among the various forms of persecution applied by the Syrian Greeks, they issued decrees against three specific mitzvos – Shabbos, bris milah and Rosh Chodesh. The roshei teivos of Shabbos, milah and chodesh spell out samei'ach! That is why we counter with that greeting.

Have a Chanukah samie'ach, a chodesh tov and a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)
Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes
Dikdukian: Be Strong
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Mikeitz veChanukah 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 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

A hearty Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece, Ruti Levy of Washington Heights, on her engagement to Yoni Epstein of Scranton, PA.

This week's shtikle is dedicated lizchus refuah sheleimah for Chana Feiga bas Shaindel Rachel and Tamar Adina bas Kayna Shulamis.

This week's parsha recounts Yoseif's infamous encounter with the wife of Potifar. As we know, she made repeated efforts to seduce Yoseif but he ultimately rejected her time after time until she fabricated a false claim of assault. I believe it is widely assumed, perhaps based on midrashim, that she had a true desire for Yoseif and leveled her false accusations only after she realized she would never succeed.

But I have begun to question that assertion. It is noteworthy that the Torah tells us (39:7) only that she "cast her eyes upon Yoseif" and demanded, "shichvah imi." There is no mention of any genuine feelings for Yoseif in the way they are expressed in the incident involving Shechem (perek 34.) Perhaps it can be suggested that the casting of her eyes was not a matter of desire but rather a feeling of jealousy at the success of Yoseif and the level of trust he had earned in such a short time. And indeed, the framing of Yoseif was always part of the plan.

This episode therefore fits perfectly into the framework of Sefer Bereishis as a harbinger of challenges the Jewish Nation will face throughout the generations. This is a repetitive script we have seen played out over and over, perhaps mostly in our day when the Jews hold a position of power. We are repeatedly baited into confrontations which, no matter what the circumstance, will always have us looked upon in a negative light.

The case made by Potifar's wife against Yoseif was not very strong. If he was the true aggressor, a logical mind would have expected her to flee with him holding her clothes as opposed to inverse. Also, if her claims were truly believed, Yoseif would surely have been put to death and not simply thrown in jail. Nevertheless, he had to be punished for the house of Potifar to avoid being shamed. Perhaps there is a comfort in knowing that it is simply our destiny to always be judged unfavourably in the eyes of the world. We can therefore never become comfortable their perception of us and must always be mindful not to further tarnish our public image.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

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 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

An interesting story surfaced very recently in one of the Jewish news outlets. A gas attendant at a station on the Palisades Parkway came up with a clever scam. When filling up for an Orthodox Jew, he would mention that on Passover, "one of your guys" filled up on gas but forgot his wallet and he paid for it instead. Many individuals ended up giving this man money in order to make a kiddush Hashem. But this is the 21st century and thanks to social media, these stories began to spread and the attendant was exposed as a con artist. He targeted Orthodox Jews, however, because he knew he could rely on their honesty and integrity and feeling of responsibility.

To some degree, it is a similar tactic employed by our enemies around and within Israel who seem to constantly seek the signing of treaties and accords with Israel. The value of these deals, of course, is that the Jews can always be relied on to naïvely keep their word while their supposed counterparts in peace barely heed their side of the bargain.

This is by no means an original ruse. In fact, the last couple of parshiyos expose this as one the oldest tricks in The Book, literally.  First, Avraham is approached by Avimelech (21:22). It appears Avraham's success has led Avimelech to the realization that this is someone he better make sure to keep on his side. So, he engages him in a pact not just for the present but for generations to come. Then, as Yitzchak grows ever powerful, Avimelech approaches him as well (26:26) to secure a mutual deal. History would go on to show that while the progeny of Avraham and Yitzchak carefully kept their side of the deal to the best of their abilities, the Philistine descendants of Avimelech most certainly did not.

Finally, in the end of our parsha we find Lavan pulling a very similar stunt. After realizing Yaakov as a foe he could never overcome, Lavan demands a covenant with Yaakov, ensuring that Yaakov would not act against him. But many generations later, Bil'am had no qualms about dishonoring this agreement in attempting to destroy Yaakov's offspring.

And so it has been and so it will likely always be. But I am not at all suggesting that this is something that should change. In fact, in a Rosh HaShanah shtikle, I suggest that it is in the merit of our steadfast trustworthiness in honouring our agreements with others whether they keep their side or not, that HaShem honours the covenant made with our forefathers, even if we are guilty of violating our pledge to keep the Torah in its entirety. It is simply a virtue that makes up the fabric of our nation.

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 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my rebbe and Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, Harav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l (Yaakov Moshe ben Refael Nissan Shlomo) whose yahrtzeit is tomorrow.

As Rivkah Imeinu endured her difficult pregnancy, she began to ask herself questions. She ponders (25:22) "im kein, lama zeh anochi," if so, wherefore am I thus? Or, more simply, why am I doing this? Rashi explains that Rivkah was questioning why she had yearned and prayed for this pregnancy. On the surface, this certainly seems like doubt on her part. But I believe the end of the pasuk shows that not to be the case.

 

Rivkah is teaching us a great lesson in dealing with the emotions of doubt. Inside, she was certainly feeling that this pregnancy was not "what she bargained for." Her approach, however, was not to give up and to declare her efforts a lost cause. Rather, she knew that certainly there was a purpose in all of this, a reason for her to endure and fight on. This is evidenced by her immediate visit to Sheim to seek guidance from HaShem. Rivkah teaches us that everything has a purpose. As we face trials and tribulations in our lives, whatever feelings we may have emotionally, our first course of action must always be lidrosh es HaShem, to search for a higher purpose. It is perfectly legitimate to ask, "Why?" The challenge is to make sure that it is not a rhetorical question.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Yaakov and Eisav's Interesting Birthdays 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