The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, November 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

My nephew, Yisroel Meir Shonek, who was celebrating his aufruf exactly five years ago, along with his wife Miriam welcomed a new baby girl into the family this week whom they named Tzirel Nechama, after my mother.

 

On a closely related note, our own (Tzirel) Nechama is celebrating her Bas Mitzvah this coming Sunday evening. Special Mazal Tovs to the Tzirel Nechamas and their families.

 

When Eisav comes back from the field, he is so wiped out that he is on the verge of death. He demands of Yaakov, who was cooking up a lentil soup, "Pour me some of that red stuff!" The pasuk continues to say that for this, he was called Edom (red). This name has endured as a reference to Eisav throughout the generations. Why would we designate an eternal name for Eisav based on this seemingly insignificant exchange? And why is the focus on the colour of the soup? It would seem more appropriate to refer to them as "hal'iteini-niks."

 

Daniel Scarowsky, z"l, explained that we are taught (Rashi 26:34) that Eisav is compared to a pig. A pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud. When it sleeps, it sleeps with its hooves stretched out as if to show the world, "look at me, I'm kosher" when, in fact, it is not. The pig symbolizes superficial and external obsessiveness, a misguided focus on outer appearance and neglect of the importance of inner essence. It is this very trait that is being illustrated here by Eisav. Even in this most desperate time, when he was in such dire need of sustenance, the lentil soup was nothing more to him than "red stuff." This exchange, therefore, is a significant indication of Eisav's character and thus, he was given the name Edom which would go on to be his national identity.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

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, November 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

This past Shabbos, Baltimore lost one of its great leaders, Rabbi Mendel Freedman, who led Bais Yaakov of Baltimore for close to 40 years. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Menachem Mendel Don ben Aryeh Leib.

 

Today, the 21st of Chesvan, is the  yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, z"l. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel be Yoel.

 

Rashi (24:10) comments that Avraham's camels were discernible for they would go out muzzled so as to prevent them from eating from fields that did not belong to him. Ramba"n (pasuk 32) asks on this based on the Midrash that refers to the donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair about which it is said that even the animals of tzadikim, HaShem does not bring about bad through them and the donkey would not even eat tevel. (Chullin 5b) If so, how could it be that Avraham had to be worried about his animals stealing to the point where he had to muzzle them? Should this same merit not have been present in the house of Avraham Avinu?

There are a number of answers given. R' Ovadia miBartenura answers that perhaps the donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair was different because it was the donkey he used personally for travel and there was a stronger bond, so to speak, between the donkey and him. But these camels were not camels that Avraham used but just camels that he owned and perhaps that is why they were not subject to this merit. But maybe Avraham's own personal donkey was.

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky, in Emes l'Yaakov, makes an interesting suggestion, based on one of the kinos from Tisha B'Av. It seems that this "miracle" of the animals avoiding issurim was connected to Eretz Yisrael. Maybe it was only in Eretz Yisrael that this happened. But in chutz la'Aretz, Charan for example, the animals would need to be muzzled. The difficulty I found with this offering, though, is that this seems to be based on Rashi and Ramban's argument being later on in pasuk 32. But Rashi says already on pasuk 10, when Eliezer first left, which was in Eretz Yisrael, that the camels went out muzzled. A reader has pointed out, though, that perhaps we can suggest the kedushah of Eretz Yisroel which is presumably the catalyst of this miracle, was not yet present to the same degree in the times of Avraham. 

Sha'arei Aharon offers a different approach. Tosafos in Chullin seem to make a distinction between food that is itself forbidden in its essence and food that is not by its nature forbidden, but is forbidden due to external circumstances. The example in Tosafos is eating before havdala where there is nothing wrong with the food itself but rather the time it is being eaten. Perhaps that is the difference here. The donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair would not eat tevel. Tevel is universally forbidden in its essence. But the food that Avraham's camels would have eaten was not forbidden by nature, but only because it belonged to others.

Another suggestion made by the same reader as above is that the animals' special, observant behaviour is very much a miracle. In the story of R' Pinchas ben Yair's donkey, he was not aware that the food was tevel. Avraham, however, would not be permitted to rely on this miracle and assume that his camels would not eat other people's food. Additionally, Avraham constantly endeavoured to set an example to the people around him as to how a person should act. Even if he could rely on his camels to not steal from neighbouring fields, it was necessary for his camels to be muzzled to set an example to the masses.  

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Different Forms of Yirash

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 3

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 this coming Tuesday, the 18th of Cheshvan.


A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece Kayla (née Levy) on her marriage this week to Yosef Marx of Passaic. Mazal Tov to the extended Levy, Bulka and Jakobovits mishpachos. In honour of the wedding and sheva berachos, the source of this week's shtikle is R' Shimon Schwab, zt"l, the chosson's great grandfather.

At the end of this week's parsha, Avraham faces the ultimate challenge of akeidas Yitzchak. It is certainly not unreasonable to consider this the greatest of Avrhaham's 10 tests on a number of different levels. It is certainly worth noting that this is the one time the Torah actually refers to the episode as a test, (22:1) "VehaElokim nisa." However, Rashi, based on a gemara (Sanhedrin 89b) cites a deeper meaning of the beseeching nature of HaShem's request which seems, at first glance, to border on hyperbole. HaShem uses the word "please" as if to say, "Please stand up to this test so that people do not say of the first tests that there was nothing to them." Suppose Avraham had difficulty with this command. Suppose he had questions about this daunting, impossible task. Would that really have detracted from the utter devotion he showed in the previous tests?


R' Schwab, in Ma'ayan Beish HaSho'eiva, explains that while the first 9 challenges were all great in their own right, there was one very important element missing – the involvement of his progeny. Passing these tests were of great significance on a personal level for Avraham. But that, on its own, would not be enough to pass on to the great nation of which Avraham was to be the father. We often speak of Avraham as having instilled the will and the strength of self-sacrifice in all future generations. But this is not accomplished simply through genetics. Akeidas Yitzchak was a trial of sacrifice that Avraham and Yitzchak would experience together as father and son. Only through enduring this test and persevering together could this virtue be passed on. Indeed, if Avraham were to have failed this test in any way, his previous accomplishments would be of much lesser value to the generations that followed. This explains the urgency of HaShem's request.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Mysterious Midrash by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: I Can't Believe it's not Fresh 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

Friday, October 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Lech Lecha

In the beginning of the parsha we are taught of Avram and Sarai's sojourn to Egypt due to the famine in Cana'an. It is evident that Lot accompanied the two to Egypt. However, there is no mention of Lot whatsoever in the entire episode until after they leave. What seems puzzling is that even if the Egyptians believed that Avram and Sarai were brother and sister, why did they not suspect Lot of being Sarai's husband? Furthermore, Rashi infers from the singular form of the verb "kevo" (12:14) that Sarai was hidden in a box and only Avram was visible. Should the pasuk not have used plural tense anyway because of Lot? Why does his presence seem to be ignored.

 

The first question may be answered by Sifsei Chachamim in pasuk 13. There, they ask how it was possible that Avram entrapped the Egyptians and lead them to commit the grievous crime of eishes ish. They answer from Chizkuni that they told the Egyptians that Sarai was in fact married but that her husband was overseas. This way they made it known that she was married. And with this we can also understand why they did not suspect Lot of being Sarai's wife either.

 

To answer the second question, we again turn to Sifsei Chachamim. They ask why Rashi inferred from the word kevo rather than the word vayeireid in pasuk 10 which is also in singular. They answer that in that pasuk, before Sarai's beauty is addressed, Avram is the only significant figure and the pasuk need only refer to him. However, in pasuk 14, Sarai has already become an integral part of this journey and we would have expected her to pluralize the word kevo. In that case, since Lot was never an integral part of the journey but rather more of a tag-along, we would not expect him to turn the verb into a plural.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Uncountable Stars
Dikdukian: King #5


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 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

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

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:


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

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

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