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Friday, October 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Noach

This past Wednesday, 28th of Tishrei, was the yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, a"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.

 

After HaShem instructs Noach on how to bring the animals into the ark, we are told (6:22) that "Noach did all that HaShem commanded him to do, so he did." Later, (7:5), we are told again that Noach did all that HaShem commanded him. Rashi, obviously bothered by the apparent redundancy, says that this pasuk refers to Noach's coming into the ark (whereas the previous one referred to his gathering of the animals).

 

R' Shimon Schwab in Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeiva points out that the first pasuk ends with the phrase kein asah whereas the second does not. He explains that Rashi tells us (7:7) that Noach did not enter the ark right away but waited until it actually began to rain because he was of "little faith." Therefore, his coming into the ark was not done with complete devotion to the word of HaShem. The phrase kein asah usually refers to a higher level of observance, a more complete carrying out the command. That is why with regards to the bringing in of the animals, which Noach performed completely, we find the words kein asah. But with regards to the coming in to the ark, in which Noach lacked the same level of faith, we do not.

 

It is also of interest to note that the first pasuk uses the word Elokim to refer to HaShem whereas the second pasuk uses the word HaShem. As Kli Yekar explains, this actually mirrors the original commands. The first passage begins (6:13) "Vayomer Elokim leNoach." This is introduction of the massive destruction HaShem is soon to bring about. It is fitting that Elokim, denoting strict judgment, is used. The second passage begins (7:1) "Vayomer HaShem leNoach." This passage deals with the instructions to save the animals as well as one last delay for one last chance for teshuvah. So the use of the Name of Adnus, denoting mercy, is used.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

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

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Wednesday, October 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Sukkos

A hearty Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Aharon & Rachelle Yeres & Family of Cedarhust, NY on the birth of a baby girl, Sima Tova. Mazal tov to the extended Yeres, Frankel & Stark Families

 

As part of the requisite mitzvos pertaining to Sukkos, we are told (Vayikra 23:42) "You shall dwell in sukkos for a seven day period." Interestingly, the word sukkos is in plural. The first inclination would be that this is because the nation as a whole will dwell, collectively, in many sukkos. However, the adjacent pasuk referring to the mitzvah of the four species refers to the esrog as pri eitz hadar in singular form, despite the fact that the nation as a whole will be taking many. In fact, it is further puzzling that the rest of the species are referred to in the plural. The hadassim and aravos are understandable. But the lulav, of which we only take one, is also in plural.

     

For now, I would like to address only the discrepancy in the wording of sukkos. There is a significant difference between the mitzvah of sukkah and that of lulav and esrog. The mitzvah to take a lulav and esrog is very personal and private in nature. This is epitomized by the fact that one must own his own four species and cannot fulfill the mitzvah with someone else's.

 

The mitzvah of sukkah, by contrast, is one that naturally includes others, notwithstanding the opinion of R' Eliezer (Sukkah 27) that one must remain in the same sukkah for the duration of the chag. Everyone makes the sukkah their temporary dwelling, the place where they eat all of their meals. Some are unable to make their own. Families and individuals, whether they have their own sukkah or not, are almost certain to share this mitzvah with others, either by eating in others' sukkah or inviting them eat in their own. Therefore, the mitzvah of sukkah is given in the plural because it is the intention that one should eat in many sukkos whereas the mitzvah of lulav and esrog can only be fulfilled with one's own set of the four species.


Have a good Yom Tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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Wednesday, September 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

One of the practices that seems to get considerable attention on Rosh HaShanah is the eating of the simanim on Rosh HaShanah. There are, of course, varying customs. Some only eat an apple dipped in honey. Conversely, many Sefardim have the custom to eat far more simanim than the average Ashkenazi is accustomed to.

 

The practice is already discussed in the gemara. The gemara (Kerisus 5b) initially lists a number of different practices which seem very much like superstitions although they appear to be permitted. They include trying to grow a chicken in one's house before embarking on a business venture as the fattening of the chicken is a harbinger of success. The final suggestion of the gemara pertains to someone who is about to embark on a journey and would like to know whether they will return successfully. They are instructed to enter a deserted house and see if they observe converging shadows. However, the gemara concludes that one should not do this because the test might not prove successful and even though it is necessarily a bad omen, he will be distraught and his emotional state might affect his mazal.

 

After all that, Abaye states, "Now that we have said that omens are significant, one should make a habit of eating gourds, dates, etc. on Rosh HaShanah." The conventional understanding seems to be that Abaye is basing his statement on the various suggestions given in the gemara relating to good "signs."  However, there is a difficulty with this approach. The procedures discussed in the gemara involve observing the outcome of a certain event and that outcome would then be an indication of what lies ahead. On Rosh HaShanah, we are merely creating the omens on our own. (It is possible, though, that Abaye is referring to the gemara's initial statement that kings should always be anointed by a spring so that his kingdom will spread.)

 

Rather, I believe Abaye may well have been basing his statement on the very last point made in the gemara, that one should not rely on the sign of the shadows since it is possible that his own troubled state could contribute to his bad mazal. From here we see that one's state of mind can directly affect his own welfare and the events that befall him. Therefore, Abaye suggests eating these specific foods - not because the eating of the foods will in and of itself be a good omen, but rather, that the eating of these foods with positive signs will put one in a more positive state of mind at the onset of the new year and that will in turn positively influence his mazal.

 

The Meiri (Horayos 12a) explains the concept of simanim on Rosh HaShanah in a similar vein. I have made a scan of the Meiri available here.

 

So, as we will probably all say tonight, may we all have a happy, healthy sweet new year.


Have a Shanah Tovah and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Remember us for the Good

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Friday, September 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Vayeilech

As the Torah wraps up the last of the 613 mitzvos, we are taught of the mitzvah of hakheil, which was performed on the Sukkos following a shemitah year. One of the unique qualities of this mitzvah is that it contains a Biblical requirement of child involvement on the part of the parents. Whereas any mitzvah contains within it an assumed requirement of chinuch, education of children, here it is clearly spelled out. We are commanded (31:12) to gather around to hear the various readings from Sefer Devarim "so that we will hear and so that we will learn and will fear HaShem our God and will observe to do all the words of the Torah." In the very next pasuk, the purpose of the children's attendance is discussed. It is so that "those who don't know will listen and will learn to fear HaShem your God..."

 

Meshech Chachmah points out that there is a phrase missing from the description of the children's purpose. The words veshamru la'asos seem to be relevant only to the adults. He explains that this phrase refers to the performance of active commandments, mitzvos aseih. Children under the age of Bar Mitzvah are not commanded in specific mitzvos aseih. There is only a general requirement of chinuch, to educate the children in the mitzvos so that when they do become of age, they know how to perform them properly. Prohibitive commandments, mitzvos lo sa'aseih, however, do specifically involve children. The gemara (Yevamos 114) teaches us that Beis Din is required to separate a child from eating neveilah, meat that comes from an animal that was not properly slaughtered. Therefore, part of the children's purpose is velamdu leyir'ah, a phrase associated with mitzvos lo sa'aseih because this aspect of mitzvah observance is directly relevant to them. The reference to mitzvos aseih, however, is omitted because it is not immediately applicable.


Have a good Shabbos and a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: The Name of the Parsha
Dikdukian: Don't you Worry

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Friday, September 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

The main focus of this week's parsha is the tochacha, the rebuke. Many commentaries deal at length with the similarities between the warnings, the threats and the curses of the tochacha in Ki Savo and those found in Bechukosai. Ramban devotes much attention to the illustration of his theory that the first tochacha in Bechukosai corresponds to the first destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the tochacha in Ki Savo corresponds to the second. 

 

Ramban makes a startling comment based on a pasuk in this week's tochacha (28:36): "And HaShem will bring you and your king whom you have raised above you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known." The sages offer a number of examples of characters and events that were, in their own way, catalysts that lead to the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash and our exile from Eretz Yisroel. Ramban suggests here that it was the travelling of King Agrippas to Rome to sign treaties that was the (or at least a) cause of our exile their. He adds that the pasuk hints to Agrippas by referring to the king "whom you have raised above you" and not the the king "who ruled over you," a reference to the illegitimate appointment of Agrippas as king as discussed in the gemara (Sotah 41a). Agrippas' cordial approach to our enemies encouraged our destruction and condemned us to exile at the hands of the Romans.

 

We have certainly seen in our time numerous futile attempts to establish treaties with those sworn to destroy us with quite drastic results. Ramban's lesson from this week's parsha has been clearly overlooked. Certainly, not all treaties are ill-advised. They have been relied upon sparingly with close guidance on occasions throughout our history. We must learn that these events are not mere political milestones that may be easily glanced over but rather, they are pivotal moments in our history with the potential to shape our future. 


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim at Har Gerizim and Har Eival
Dikdukian: Tough Day at the Office

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Friday, September 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

One of the many topics covered in this week's parsha is that of marriage and divorce. The term used for the divorce document is geit. The first Tosafos in maseches Gittin teaches us that being that the gematria of geit is 12, it is the custom to make all gittin 12 lines long. The question asked in the name of the GR"A (although it is not so clear that it was his question) is why did Chaza"l decide to use specifically this word which has no meaning elsewhere? Why did they not choose any other combination of letters which adds up to 12? He gives a fascinating answer. The letters gimmel and tes are never found next to each other in any one word in all of Tana"ch! This combination therefore symbolizes how, with a geit, a couple has become separated.

What is even more fascinating is the question that R' Chaim Kanievsky asks on this. Why use gimmel and tes to convey this idea? Gimmel-kuf, zayin-tes, zayin-tzadi and samech-tzadi are also never found next to each other in all of Tana"ch!! He gives two answers, although they are not nearly as entertaining as the question. First, none of those combinations adds up to 12. Second, gimmel-tes is the first combination encountered when starting from the beginning of the Aleph-Bais.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

    Shiluach HaKein Game

Dikdukian: Shiluah Ha...

Dikdukian: Shva vs Kamatz by R' Ari Storch



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Friday, August 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

So, what is the connection between this past Monday's solar eclipse and this week's parsha?

As we were reading from the beginning of parshas Shofetim this Monday, I couldn't help but notice the glaring irony. People all across the country were readying themselves and preparing their special eyewear to ensure they don't become blinded by the dangerous rays of the sun. Meanwhile, we read in the second pasuk of the parsha of the great dangers of bribery which are so great that they surely (16:19) "blind the eyes of wise men."

Indeed, many of our body parts have, in addition to their literal, physical manifestation, a figurative existence as well. Just last week, we were taught (15:8) of the importance of opening one's hand to help his brother in need. This does not necessitate any physical opening of one's hand but rather, acting in a charitable manner. This idea isn't even necessarily unique to the Torah. For example, even in the secular world, one talks of a broken heart which rarely involves any actual physical damages to any organs. So while we were all wrapped up in taking the proper precautions to protect our literal, physical eyes, the Torah was reminding us how equally important it is to protect ourselves from figurative blindness caused by bribery.

The events of this week coincided, of course, with the new moon and subsequent Rosh Chodesh of Elul, a month in which we do our utmost towards shleimus leading up to the yamim nora'im. It can be said that it signifies our beginning on the path to totality.


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
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