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Wednesday, April 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

I felt the following thought is particularly pertinent this year when so many of us are confined to some degree of isolation and will not be part of the larger seder we are used to – some even conducting the seder in solitude. Please continue to daven for all of the cholim. Yom Tov hi miliz'ok, urfuah kerovah lavo.

In the beginning of Maggid, we recite "Avadim hayinu." In this paragraph, we say that if not for the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had taken us out of Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Therefore, even if we are all wise, understanding knowers of the Torah, we have a mitzvah to tell over the story of yetzias Mitzrayim. To say that there are two questions to be asked on this paragraph would surely not be the whole truth. However, there are two questions on which I wish to focus. First, why would we have thought that wise sages would be exempt from the mitzvah? Second, how does the haggadah in fact justify this requirement?

As an introduction, I would like to quote a piece from R' Chaim Kanievsky on Chanukah, found in Ta'ama D'kra. He asks why there is no mention of the miracle of the oil in the text of "Al HaNisim." He answers that the theme of Al HaNisim is hoda'ah, giving thanks. When it comes to giving thanks, the obligation only exists regarding an event by which one is directly affected. For a miracle that only truly benefited those at the time and has no effect on us now, there is no obligation of hoda'ah. We find that Sukkos is built around the miracle of HaShem's protecting us. However, since this miracle does not affect us today, we don't find any specific requirements of hoda'ah on Sukkos. So, too, the miracle of the oil has no direct effect on us today. On the other hand, had B'nei Yisrael been destroyed in the war, we would not be around today. Therefore, we must give thanks for the winning of the war.

Perhaps, what the paragraph of "Avadim Hayinu" is teaching us is that we might have thought that the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is strictly an educational one, that there is an obligation for the wise to teach those who do not know as the main source of this mitzvah is "vehigadta levincha," a requirement for the father to teach the son. Had this been so, if we were all wise sages, there would be no need to do this mitzvah for no one needs to be educated. However, this is not so. Attached to the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is the very pertinent theme of hoda'ah. We are not merely telling a story. We are expressing thanks and appreciation to HaShem for yetzias Mitzrayim, whether we've learned about it previously or not. The haggadah, therefore, starts by illustrating how the miracle affects us today, that if not for yetzias Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Because of this, there is an obligation to thank HaShem and therefore all of us are commanded to tell the story of yetzias Mitzrayim.

Have a chag kasher ve'sameiach and a good Shabbos!


For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Hagieinu vs Yagieinu

Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

Daily Leaf: ל"ג: Yaakov and Rashb"i

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Friday, April 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav / Shabbas HaGadol

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my uncle, Chaim Yitzchak ben Baila, and his brother, Refael Elchanan Shimon ben Baila, as well as my wife's uncle, Yehoshua ben Leah Faiga, besoch sh'ar cholei Yisrael.

As parshas Tzav is one of the more difficult parshios to write about, the natural fallback – as has been the case for myself, as well – is to discuss the korban todah, special version of the shelamim which has extra accompanying breads and is confined to a shorter timespan for eating. There is a well-known mnemonic, provided by the Shulchan Aruch (OC 219:1) for the four people who are required to bring this korban: "vehcol hachayim yoducha selah." The word חיים stands for חבוש, יסורים, ים, מדבר: a released prisoner, someone who was sick, someone who traversed the sea of the dessert. It is interesting to note the simplicity of the word that serves as the mnemonic – hachayim, the living. Indeed, it is only the more extreme circumstances that require the korban to be brought. But in celebrating the great, overt miracles, we reflect on life itself and realize how every day we have on this earth is a gift. Once we enter a mode of giving praise and thanks, we are able to have deeper appreciation for the little things.


In a previous shtikle for seder night, we have also discussed how we, as a nation, actually fit all four categories in our exodus from Egypt and sojourn towards Eretz Yisrael. Pesach, and more specifically, the seder, provides yet another opportunity to celebrate the large miracles and at the same time, appreciate the smaller things we might take for granted like freedom from oppression.


The current situation in which we find ourselves has provided many opportunities to hear insights from various different speakers, each with their own perspective on the circumstances affecting all of us. One of the ideas I found particularly inspiring was to take time to appreciate that while these are very trying times which are certainly testing in many ways, there are so many aspects we should appreciative of. We may need to celebrate Pesach alone, but at least we are allowed to celebrate Pesach. We cannot go to shul to daven or to learn. But no one is stopping us (other than perhaps a child or two jumping on our head) from doing so at home. We are not being chased by Nazis, Cossacks or the Inquisition. In a slightly different twist from the themes of the korban todah and Pesach, sometimes it takes being prevented and prohibited from some of the things we take for granted to appreciate all of the plenty we are blessed with.


Wishing everyone a healthy Shabbos and Yom Tov.


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: שבת הגדול
Dikdukian: נעשה

Dikdukian: Kesev vs. Keves

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Friday, March 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayikra

Today, 2 Nissan, marks the 14th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.


This Sunday, 4 Nissan, marks the 2nd yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Rebbetzin Faigie Frankel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Leah Feiga bas Aharon Tzvi.


Early on the parsha (1:14), we are told that an olah offering of birds is of turtledoves or pigeons. Ramban describes why specifically these two birds are chosen for the olah offering of birds over all other birds. He explains that the traits of these birds resemble that of B'nei Yisrael, hinting to a more metaphysical resemblance between the birds and humans. I believe there is a specific reason why Ramban was compelled to take this approach to the bird offerings.


On pasuk 9 we are exposed to the famous dispute between Ramban and Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim as to the reasoning behind korbanos. Ramban states there that the sacrificing of the animal is representative of the deserved sacrifice of one's own body. The animal on the mizbei'ach is really an exchange for the body of the one bringing it. It is easier to understand this connection with regular, four-legged mammals. They have four limbs and innards like that of a human. When a bull or sheep is lying on the mizbe'ach, one can conceive how it represents a human being. When its innards are burnt, one can conceive how this is an exchange for the burning of a human's innards. However, with a bird, the connection is harder to see. A bird's physical make-up is nothing like that of a human. The bringing of a bird offering does not entail the burning of the innards as an essential component like the animal offerings do. Therefore, Ramban illustrates that although a physical connection between birds and humans is hard to see, a spiritual connection between the birds and B'nei Yisrael exists in such a way that we may conceive a bird offering on the mizbei'ach to represent the one who is bringing it.


Have a good Shabbos. 

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikukian: Nusach for Birkas Ha'ilanos

The Daily Leaf: Zerizim

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,

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Monday, March 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew, Yeshaya Shonek, on his engagement to Tzippora Leah Munk of Kew Gardens. Mazal tov to the ganse mishpacha.


There are certainly no shortage of interpretations out there for the exact understanding of the ad delo yada obligation on Purim. However, I would like to share yet another which my rebbe R' Kulefsky, zt"l, would unabashedly repeat nearly every year in the name of the Nesivos. R' Kulefsky would often repeat certain vortlach in their applicable time over and over but would make it clear that he was well aware of the repetition but that it was nevertheless worthwhile for all who have heard it to hear it again. (Incidentally, this is not the first time I am posting this but felt it was apropos, considering it relates, albeit tangentially, to a recent topic discussed in daf yomi.)


As an introduction, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) states that whereas in this world, we make the berachah of hatov vehameitiv on joyous news and dayan haemes on unfortunate, saddening  news, in the world to come we will only make the berachah of hatov vehameitiv. The Tzelach asks, what unfortunate saddening news will there be on which to recite hatov vehameitiv? Rather, we will look back in retrospect at the events in history we regarded as sorrowful and realize the truth purpose of each and  every one and realize that it was all for the good.


In fact, even for us in this world, a certain degree of this realization can be reached. The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sh'ar HaSimchah) describes the highest levels of joy, citing the gemara (Berachos, beginning of 9th perek, et. al.) which states that just as we recite a blessing on the good, we must recite a blessing on the bad and unfortunate. He understands that when the gemara says kesheim, just like, it means that we should recite a blessing on the bad with the same degree of joy and happiness as that which we do on the good.


In the story of Purim we read about the evil decree of Haman, a mournful moment for the people of that time. And yet, that decree was a catalyst to unprecedented levels of teshuvah and the ultimate deliverance from that imminent threat. And so, suggests Nesivos, the obligation to rejoice on Purim until one does not decipher between "cursed Haman" and "blessed Mordechai" is not to say we should lose our ability to judge and not see the difference between them. Rather, we should reach a level of joy such that, with the utmost clarity, we realize that there is no difference and that even the gravest calamities that befall us are part of a greater good.


We certainly live in turbulent times on many fronts. (Have there ever been times that weren't turbulent?) Our nation faces threats to its very existence at nearly every turn. But perhaps these dire times present an even greater opportunity to use this Purim to strive to reach the realization that everything HaShem does is for the good.



In a weekly chaburah, we recently discussed the last pasuk of the megillah. It is stated (10:3) that Mordechai was "gadol laYhudim veratzui lerov echav," popular with the multitude of his brethren. At least that's the simple understanding. Rashi, however, explains that the word rov actually means majority, but not all. Some of the men of the Sanhedrin distanced themselves from Mordechai after he became close with the king and lax in his studies. I was thinking – that is so sad to only have a following of a majority after all of his heroics. But I bet he still has Bibi Netanyahu jealous!!


Have a chag Purim samie'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Please check out all Megillah-related Dikdukian posts

And all my previous Purim shtikles

Al Pi Cheshbon: 10,00 Kikars

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Friday, March 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh / Zachor

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew Yaakov Levy of Monsey on his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos. Mazal tov to the extended Bulka and Levy mishpachos including Oma Jakobovits.


On the bottom of the me'il, the tunic that the kohein gadol wore, were golden bells. The pasuk explains (28:35), "his/its sound shall be heard when he enters the holy." Rabbeinu Bachye offers an alternative understanding that deviates from the traditional way this pasuk is translated. The voice is actually referring to the kohein gadol himself. His voice is heard when he enters the holy and he prays for the nation. This is a summary of all of the vestements that he wears. If properly worn, his tefillos will be accepted.


The traditional understanding, however, is that the bells provide a warning of the kohein gadol's approach and so he does not simply appear unannounced. This is the sound referred to in the pasuk. Rabbeinu Bachye provides a timely connection to Megillas Esther which we will be soon be reading. Esther's great fear in attempting to beseech Achashveirosh's mercy was that she had not been invited and (4:11) "everyone knows that someone who enters the inner court uninvited has but one fate – death." We see from here that appearing uninvited is not tolerated by human royalty and therefore, is certainly not suitable for Divine royalty either. 


This does bring up a question. When Vashti publicly spurned Achashveirosh's invitation, there was a whole tribunal to discuss her fate. It seems that appearing before the king uninvited is considered far more drastic than failing to appear when summoned. Why would this be? We have a couple of days to think about it.


Have a good Shabbos. 

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Dikdukian Posts on Megillas Esther

Dikdukian: Ner Tamid

Dikdukian: Of Plurals and Singulars

Dikdukian: The Lord and the Rings

Dikdukian: Tarshsih veShoham

Dikdukian: Sham and Shamah

Daily Leaf:

:נ"ט Niagara Falls

.ס The Switcheroo

:ס Man of Compromise

.ס"ג You're the Man!

:ס"ג Honouring the Host

.ס"ג Good Fences

:ס"ג In Praise of Alexander Graham Bell

:ס"ג Egyptian Hospitality

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Friday, February 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

Yesterday, 2 Adar, was the 14th yahrtzeit of my Zadie, Rabbi Yaakov Bulka. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak, z"l.

In previous years, we have discussed a question regarding the listing at the beginning of the parsha of items necessary for the mishkan. The oil, spices and stones are listed along with their purpose whereas the other materials' purpose is not made clear at the outset. One more possible approach to differentiate the two is that the oil, spices and stones were not part of the construction of the actual edifice. Rather, they are simply needed as part of the service that would take place there. This, however, begs the question: Why are these items even listed in the first place? If they are not part of the building, why was it necessary to discuss them now?


The Da'as Zekeinim miBa'alei haTosafos address this issue as it relates to the oil and spices. They point out that there are numerous other consumables such as flour and wood that were necessary for the day-to-day service but were not mentioned. However, the oil and spices were indeed necessary for the very essence of the mishkan as a resting place for the Shechinah. It is the way of kings to have their palace always smelling nice before they enter. As well, extra lights are lit – even if not needed for illumination – as a form of royal honour. Therefore, these materials were very much necessary components of the mishkan.


It occurred to me that these two ideas were both discussed over the course of this week's daf yomi. In detailing various laws related to havdalah, it is mentioned (Berachos 53a) that extra lights are often used to honour an adam chashuv, and since it is not used for light, it cannot be used for borei me'orei ha'eish. In addition to discussing the laws of besamim, there is also a practice mentioned at the end of the perek (53b) regarding the use of special oils after mayim acharonim in order to make the hands smell good as an appropriate honour for the berachah of birkas hamazon.


I have not seen this suggested anywhere but it seems the entire process of havdalah is a manifestation of the mikdash in our own homes, with the wine also representative of the libations on the mizbei'ach. There is also a common practice to follow havdalah immediately with a meal for melaveh malkah which would represent the shulchan and make this symbolism complete.


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,

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Friday, February 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

This coming Sunday, 28 Shevat, marks the 7th  yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, R' Yitzchak Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yitzchak Chaim ben Moshe Yosef HaLevi.

This week, the mishnah yomis program began the 8th perek of Chullin – Kol habasar – which deals with mixing meat and milk. So it is fitting to explore a fascinating thought related to that topic from this week's parsha. (The daf yomi covered the laws of zimun which also tangentially intersect with basar b'chalav when it comes to a question of whether people eating meat and milk separately can join together in a zimun.)


This week's parsha contains the first of three instances of the of the prohibition of  lo sevasheil gedi bachaleiv imo (23:19), not to cook a goat in its mother's milk. This is the source for the prohibition of milk and meat. The three instances are necessary to indicate a prohibition against cooking, eating or deriving any other benefit. In this instance and in Ki Sisa, (34:26) the phrase appears right next to the mitzvah of bikurim. In Re'eih (Devarim 14:21), however, it does not. Netziv explains in Ha'ameik Davar that it is the way of the nations to mix meat and milk together and put it in the ground as a very effective fertilizer. Thus, the prohibition of the mixing of meat and milk was put next to bikurim to tell you that even for the purpose of growing nice fruit for bikurim, one may not mix meat and milk. The prohibitions of cooking and deriving benefit may be connected to this agricultural phenomenon. But the prohibition of eating may not. After all, if you've eaten it, you can't put it in the ground. As the saying goes, you can't eat your basar b'chalav and plant it, too. Therefore, it is exactly twice that lo sevasheil gedi appears next to the mitzvah of bikurim.


My Rebbe, R' Kulefsky, zt"l would often tell over this explanation of Netziv, accompanied with a rather humourous anecdote involving Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz. He was once in the bathroom and reading a secular agriculture book in order to make sure he wouldn't think in learning. He came across this fact that putting milk and meat together in the ground helps the soil. Immediately, this fact sparked the idea in his mind to understand the pesukim as Netziv did above. Since this caused him to think about Torah, he had to run out of the bathroom right away!


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup

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