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Friday, January 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eira

In order to give Paroah a warning for the plague of blood, (7:15) Moshe is told to meet Paroah at the Nile and hamateh asher nehpach lenachash tikach beyadecha, the staff that was turned into a snake you shall take in your hand. This command begs the question, whose staff is it anyway? A staff was turned into a snake twice, once in front of B'nei Yisrael and once in front of Paroah. It would seem that in front of B'nei Yisrael, Moshe used his own staff, just as it was clearly used in the demonstration in front of the burning bush. From pasuk 9, it appears that the staff used in front of Paroah was Aharon's. Which one, then, is being referred to in this pasuk?

Klei Yekar on pasuk 9 points out that Moshe's staff turned into a nachash while Aharon's turned into a tanin. He then goes on to explain the difference between the two. Since our pasuk reads hamateh asher nehepach lenachash and not hamateh asher nehepach lesanin, it would seem that the staff being referred to is Moshe's. Ibn Ezra, however, holds that even the staff that was used in front of Paroah was Moshe's. According to this, it would seem to leave no doubt that the staff was Moshe's. [It is noteworthy, however, that when the signs are in fact performed in front of B'nei Yisrael, (4:30), it seems to be Aharon who performed them. Why this would be is a question unto itself. But if Aharon was the one who performed them, perhaps it is not so simple that Moshe's staff was used.]

Nevertheless, Targum Yonasan here states outright that it was Aharon's staff to be brought to the Nile. In Tosafos HaShaleim, an interesting reasoning for this is brought. Moshe's staff had HaShem's name etched on it. Rashi here tells us that Paroah was found at the Nile bank each morning to relieve himself. Therefore, taking Moshe's staff with HaShem's name on it would have been like taking a sefer into the bathroom, or worse. So, it had to be Aharon's staff that was brought to the Nile.

Another puzzling fact to consider is that, as every school child learns at a very young age, it was certainly Aharon, not Moshe, who ultimately carried out the plague of blood. Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar, makes this point but asserts that it was still Moshe's staff that is the subject of this command. Subsequently (7:17), regarding the exact wording of the warning, he provides a rather creative interpretation of how the events unfolded. Even though it was Aharon who hit the Nile with his staff, the actual plague was carried out by HaShem through the staff in Moshe's hand.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Va'eira by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Leshon Yachid veRabbim by Eliayhu 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 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

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


Before Yaakov blesses all his children together, Yoseif brings his sons to Yaakov to be blessed. "And he blessed them on that day saying, by you Israel shall bless saying, may HaShem make you like Efrayim and Menasheh." Rashi validates Yaakov's prophecy by explaining that the blessing was that for generations to come Jews would bless their children to be like Efrayim and Menasheh. Indeed, it is the practice of most Jews to bestow this blessing upon their sons every Shabbos night. Yaakov was blessing his grandchildren that they should merit to be the paradigmatic children like whom all parents hope and pray their children will become.

 

Although the pasuk begins vayevarecheim, and he blessed them, the actual blessing itself begins becha, by you, in the singular. The word bachem would have been expected in that situation.

 

When we bless our children to be like Efrayim and Menasheh, it is certainly a tribute to them and their righteousness, having been brought up in a foreign land, surrounded by negative influences and nevertheless emerging as the great men they were. However, the word becha would seem to be referring to Yoseif. It is a tribute to Yoseif and the diligence and dedication with which he brought up his precious children in the most loathsome of societies that we pray that our sons be like his. Therefore, this blessing of Yaakov was very much directed to Yoseif as well.


Chazak, chazak, venischazeik!

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 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

This Shabbos is the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Israel Frankel, a"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.

 

Before Yoseif reveals his true identity to his brothers, (45:1), he calls everyone else to leave the room so as not to embarrass his brothers when he reveals himself (Rashi). The midrash (93:9) quotes, "Rebi Chama bar Chanina said, Yoseif did not act accordingly for if any one of the brothers had kicked him, he would have died instantly." By sending out all his men, Yoseif forfeited all the security that he had and left himself vulnerable to the brothers, if they had gotten angry at him which, apparently, they already were. What bothered me about this midrash is that the gemara (Sotah 10b) derives from the episode of Yehudah and Tamar (see Rashi 38:25) that it is better to have yourself thrown in a fire in order not to embarrass your friend in public. If so, even if Yoseif was putting his life in danger, was it not the right thing to do under the circumstances, rather than embarrass his brothers?

 

On a simplistic level, it can be suggested that the midrash is speaking merely from a strategic perspective. Yoseif was putting himself in danger by secluding himself with his brothers. The gemara is where the moral and ethical component is discussed.

 

However, on closer inspection, this situation with Yoseif is in fact distinctly different from that of Yehudah and Tamar. In Tamar's situation, she was able to put the ball completely in Yehudah's court by presenting all of the evidence to him. She was able to say to him, "If you do not wish to put yourself through embarrassment, then I am willing to have myself thrown to the fire." Tamar was prepared to die but she did not make this decision on her own. Conversely, the brothers were not aware of the potential embarrassment. Yoseif had no way of presenting them this ultimatum. The lesson of the gemara is that the embarrasser must be prepared to die but that is only if the embarrassee so desires. It was therefore wrong of Yoseif to make himself vulnerable for he had no way of knowing if his brother's "preferred" his death over embarrassment. One would have to assume that if after killing the Egyptian viceroy the brothers found out they had killed Yoseif, they would have been quite regretful. 


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 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

When the brothers return home after their first confrontation with Yoseif, Yaakov refuses to let them bring Binyamin back down with them. Reuvein boldly declares (42:37) that both his sons shall be put to death if he does not bring Binyamin back. Despite this impressive expression of dedication, Yaakov refuses to let the brothers return with Binyamin. Later, as the famine grows stronger, the return to Egypt seems imminent. Yehudah proclaims (43:9) that he will take responsibility for Binyamin and that if he does not return him and stand him up in front of Yaakov, then he will have sinned to his father for all of days. Rashi comments that "all of days" refers to the world to come. Yehudah was declaring that if he fails to return Binyomin, his sin shall be everlasting. Yaakov subsequently sent the brothers back down with Binyomin.

 

From a practical point of view, the reason why Yaakov accepted Yehudah's proposal and not Reuvein's may simply be because time was just running out. Reuvein's offer was presented when the brothers had just returned and could survive without returning to Egypt for a while. Later on, however, there simply was no other alternative.

 

The Ohr HaChayim, however, offers a comparison of the sincerity of the two offers. Reuvein, in fact, had four sons. He only offered the sacrifice of two of them because he was not willing to lose all his children and be bereft of the mitzvah of procreation. He was willing to sacrifice possessions of this world but not his reward in the world to come. Yaakov sensed this slight insincerity in Reuvein's offer. Yehudah, however, was willing to sacrifice even his portion in the world to come, according to Rashi's interpretation. Yaakov, therefore, felt that Yehudah's acceptance of responsibility was sincere enough that he could trust with the life of his youngest son.

 

 

In the past, we have discussed different nuances of Chanukah as they pertain to the miracle of the war and the miracle of the oil. I would like to explore the actual significance of the two miracles. Specifically, why was it necessary to have these two miracles?

 

To begin, let us backtrack and approach the issue based on our understanding of our reactions to the miracles. At the end of Al HaNisim, we recount that the eight days of Chanukah were instituted lehodos ulhalel. There are two distinct purposes for Chanukah. Lehodos is simply understood as giving of thanks. As we have discussed in past years, the Al HaNisim text mentions nothing of the miracle of the oil. As R' Chaim Kanievsky explains, it was not a miracle of eternal significance as it pertains to our existence. We would still be standing here today with or without the miracle of the oil. Thus, we are not expected to give thanks for it. The same cannot be said about the great miracle of the defeat of the mighty Syrian Greeks by our tiny army. That is why the thanks is focused exclusively on that event. (I have heard a number of people, speaking about Chanukah, commenting that we "do not celebrate military victories." Based on the above, that approach seems questionable at best.)

 

Hallel is usually understood as praise. This is clearly different than thanks. Hallel, in our context, is expression of recognition of HaShem's greatness. Whereas the miracle of the war, as unbelievable as it was, was more discrete, the miracle of the oil was a blatant miracle. As we have mentioned in the name of P'nei Yehoshua, the miracle of the oil was not "necessary," per se. Nevertheless, it was a clear stamp of approval on the entire episode of Chanukah and, at the same time, a clear display of HaShem's greatness.

 

The two miracles of Chanukah represent the two aspects of HaShem's deliverance. Our commemoration of this holiday is meant to give thanks and to give praise - to thank HaShem for our defeat of the Greeks and to give praise and recognize His ultimate greatness.


Have a Chaunkah Samei'ach and a good Shabbos!

Eiezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes

Dikdukian: Be Strong

Dikdukian: Just Do It!


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 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

Earlier this month, in my haste, I skipped my usual dedication for the yahrtzeit of my rebbe, HaRav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, 3 Kisleiv. I will try to compensate with a shtikle on this week's parsha he would often say over.

 

In this week's parsha we have the infamous episode, amongst others, of Yoseif and the wife of Potifar. The gemara (Sotah 36b) explains that Yoseif in fact had a desire to give in to her initially, but in the end he was able to overcome and suppress. This assertion seems difficult at first glance. The pesukim make no reference of such a desire and clearly says (39:8) "Vayemaein Yoseif", and Yoseif refused. What then did Chazal see to suggest that Yoseif in fact had an urge? My Rebbe, R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, explains in the name of the Afikei Yehudah that the explanation lies in the meaning of the word vayemaein. It does not connote an absence of desire but rather a refusal of an apparent desire. The contrast between meiun, refusal, and total lack of desire is illustrated in a number of places in the Torah.

 

When B'nei Yisrael requested permission from Edom to pass through their land, the language of Edom's refusal is "vayemaein Edom," (Bemidbar 20:21). When they requested of Sichon permission to pass through his land the reply is described as "v'lo avah Sichon," (Devarim 2:30) and Sichon did not want. Sichon was completely willing to do this favour for B'nei Yisrael. Edom would not have inherently opposed their passage if not for the fact that they were afraid that they would wage war against them. But it seems that the favour itself Edom had no opposition to. (Perhaps this contrast is also seen in the fact that Sichon waged war immediately and Edom did not.) That's why their answer is called a refusal whereas Sichon didn't want.

 

When Bil'am is convinced by HaShem not to curse B'nei Yisrael, the messengers of Balak report, "mei'ein Bil'am" (Bemidbar 22:14). Surely Bil'am at this point still wanted to curse B'nei Yisrael but because of HaShem's command he could not. That is why the language of refusal is used.

 

The final example is the most revealing as it uses both terminologies in the same pasuk. In the parsha of yivum, the woman is required to come before beis din and recite a specific passage: (Devarim 25:7) "Mei'ein yevami l'hakim l'achiv shem b'Yisrael, lo avah yabemi." As far as the component dealing with being meikim shem, to allow the name of the deceased to endure, which is the essence of the mitzvah, the verb of refusal is used because deep down every one really wants to do a mitzvah. Nevertheless, for a certain reason he has refused (as explained in the famous passage of Rambam in Hilchos Gittin 2:20). The end of the pasuk reads "lo avah yabemi," he doesn't want to do yivum to me. This is to say, "It is me he doesn't want at all."

 

This, suggests the Afikei Yehuda, is what Chazal observed to understand the episode of Yoseif as they did. Vayemaein Yoseif implies not that Yoseif had no desire whatsoever, but that he had a desire and refused it.


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 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew, Shlomo Yitzchok Shonek of Far Rockaway, who is celebrating his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos.

 

When Yaakov learns that Eisav is coming to meet him with 400 men, he expresses great fear as stated (32:8) "vayira Yaakov me'od vayeitzer lo." There are various suggestions given as to the exact definition of the word vayeitzer. The predominant interpretation seems to be that it is from the same root as tzar, implying that Yaakov was stressed.

 

I suggest that perhaps this word is from the root of the word yeitzer which comes from the same root as tzurah, a form. While the body is the physical form of the human being, the yeitzer - both the yeitzer tov and the yeitzer hara - comprises spiritual form of the human being. Yaakov's yeitzer, his spiritual form, was one that directly opposed murder and violence, unlike his brother Eisav. Rashi writes that while vayira was indicative a fear that he himself may be killed, the connotation of vayeizter is that Yaakov was worried that he might be put in a position where he would have to kill others. In other words, Yaakov was troubled that he would be forced to act in a way that is antithetical to his yeitzer. Thus, vayeitzer can be interpreted to mean that his yeitzer was being bothered.



Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Appearances
Al Pi Cheshbon: Goats and Amicable Numbers by Ari Brodsky


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, November 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

At the beginning of this week's parsha, Yaakov leaves his home to Charan where he would spend the next 20 years. In his famous dream, he sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Rashi (28:12) writes that the angels of Eretz Yisrael were leaving him because they could not leave Eretz Yisrael and the angels of chutz la'aretz took over.

 

At the end of the parsha (32:2) we find another changing of the guard as Yaakov prepares to return to Eretz Yisrael. However, he has not yet fully returned. He is clearly on the eastern side of the Yardein. How were the angels permitted to leave the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael to greet Yaakov as he returned?

 

Shaarei Aharon quotes an even stronger question from Panei'ach Raza. In next week's parsha, Yaakov sends angels (32:4 see Rashi) to Eisav. According to the Midrash, these angels were from the angels that he met at the end of this week's parsha. So these angels were sent to Sei'ir which is even further from Eretz Yisrael. Panei'ach Raza concludes that since Sei'ir was from the three nations – Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni – that were promised to Avraham, but reserved for the end of days, it was considered part of Eretz Yisrael and the angels were allowed to go there. Charan, of course, was not within any boundaries of Eretz Yisrael so the angels certainly could not have followed him there at the beginning of the parsha.

 

However, Sha'arei Aharon raises an issue with this answer from Panei'ach Raza. The gemara (Bava Basra 91a) discusses the unfortunate circumstances that befell Elimelech and his family (Megillas Rus.) It is clear from the gemara that their trials and tribulations were punishment for having left Eretz Yisrael to go to chutz la'aretz. However, they only went to Moav which would have been within the "safe zone" that Panei'ach Raza defined. Why then would they be punished?

 

Sha'arei Aharon suggests that the three nations promised to Avraham were not ultimately part of our original inheritance of the land only as a result of the sin of the spies. From Avraham until the generation of the midbar, those nations were considered part of Eretz Yisrael. Only afterward was it considered chutz la'aretz. Therefore, the angels in Yaakov's time were permitted to travel to those nations. Elimelech, however, was not.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: From his Sleep
Dikdukian: Different Types of Kissing
Dikdukian: Come on, People - Part II
AstroTorah: Did Yaakov Leave the Solar System by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Yaakov's Lesson on Zemanei HaYom 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