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Friday, December 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

After Paroah awakes from his two dreams, he is unable to get a satisfactory interpretation from the chartumim. We are told (41:8) "v'ein poser osam l'Pharoah." Rashi interprets "l'Pharoah" as for Paroah's benefit. The chartumim did offer possible meanings of the dream but they were not to Paroah's liking. They suggested, for example, that he would have seven daughters and then bury those seven doors as they would die in his lifetime. When Paroah tells Yoseif (24) "va'omar el hachartumim, v'ein magid li," it seems he relates these feelings to Yoseif as well. Nevertheless, Yoseif proceeds to interpret the dream in a similar fashion, foreshadowing seven-fold good fortune followed by seven-fold misery which erases that good fortune. Why was Yoseif's interpretation more acceptable to Paroah?

There is some discussion in the commentaries regarding Yoseif's advice to Paroah following his interpretation. Some even suggest that it was improper and out of place for Yoseif to be putting in his two cents. After all, that's not what Paroah asked him for. However, considering the above question, it seems quite clear why Yoseif had to do this. If Paroah has seven daughters and buries them all he is left with nothing. If he has seven years of plenty followed by seven years of unbearable famine he is left with worse than nothing. Had Yoseif simply interpreted the dream, his offering would have been no more acceptable than that of the chartumim. With Yoseif's intelligent solution to the problem, his interpretation became much more favourable. Indeed, Paroah declares (39) "now that God has revealed all of this to you, there is no one as understanding and wise as you." Understanding would seem to refer to his interpretation of the dream. Wisdom refers to his solution.

 

 

The gemara (Shabbos 21b) explains the origins of Chanukah. After the great miracle, the rabbis instituted an eight day festival of praise and thanks. Although it would appear that the recitation of Al HaNisim is an integral part of this institution, it is not a requisite part of the Birkas HaMazon or davening as one need not repeat if it is forgotten. Indeed, Rambam does not include the laws pertaining to Al Hanisim in the laws of Chanukah but rather, in the laws of Tefillah. This implies that it is merely a general requirement to mention the day, "mei'ein hameora," in the tefillah but not an integral component of Chanukah itself.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l explains that when the Rambam discusses the halachos of Chanukah (3:3), he makes it clear that the lighting of the candles is mitzvah that was instituted as a manifestation of the praise and thanks. We show our appreciation not merely by thanking HaShem but by publicizing the miracle.

The underlying lesson is that the theme of Chanukah is praise and thanks. I therefore believe that the common reference to Chanukah as the Festival of Light is somewhat misleading. Focusing merely on the lights and not on the message behind them simply misses the point. The name is also likely related to an erroneous assumed connection to the other holiday that often falls around the same time. The Mishnah (Midos 2:3) recounts that the soreg, the wall that marked the point past which gentiles could not pass on the Har HaBayis, was breached in 13 places by the Greeks. The breeches were closed up following the victory over the Greeks. The victory and commemoration of Chanukah are the resealing of those breeches and our affirmation that we are different than all other nations. This is most important when Chanukah coincides with the end of December as it does this year. We must not lose sight of the true meaning of our holiday - the Festival of Praise and Thanks.

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!


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Friday, November 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

When the brothers come to tell Yaakov that a tragedy has befallen Yosef, they present the bloody coat to him and Yehuda asks (37:32) "Haker na...", do you recognize if this is your son's coat? The gemara (Sotah 10b) says that just as Yehudah used this method of informing his father, the same method was used by Tamar to inform him that she was pregnant with his child(ren), (38:25) "Haker na...", do you know to whom these belong? Ba'al HaTurim quotes this gemara here and he interprets it as a criticism of Yehudah. Just as he informed his father in this "sneaky" way, instead of telling him outright, Tamar informed him in the same way.

R' Chaim Kanievsky, however, interprets it as a praise of Yehudah. Yehudah was careful not to startle his father by abruptly telling him "Yosef's dead!" Rather, he broke the news to him gently and lightly, allowing him to come to the discovery on his own. Tamar therefore employed this roundabout manner as  well to inform him that he was the father of her children so as not to shock him and allowing him to discover it on his own.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

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Saturday, November 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

I know it's after Shabbos already but it didn't make sense to send a shtikle for Vayishlach.

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece, Rikki Ash (née Bulka), and her husband Daniel on the birth of a not-so-little baby boy this past Tuesday. Mazal tov to my brother and sister-in-law, Shmuel and Chani, on becoming grandparents and to the extended Bulka, Hook and Ash mishpachos as well as the great-great-grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.

When Yaakov sends the angels to Eisav, he commands them to tell him, (32:5) "im Lavan garti", I have lived with Lavan. Rashi adds that garti has the same gematria as tarya"g, 613, and that Yaakov was saying I have lived with Lavan and, nevertheless, "vetarya"g mitzvos shamarti", I have kept the 613 mitzvos. There are two difficulties with this. Firstly, the statement in and of itself is not quite accurate. He did marry two sisters, after all. Secondly, why is he telling Eisav this? How is this supposed to affect Eisav when coming to confront Yaakov.

My Zadie, R' Yaakov Bulka, a"h, offers the following explanation: We assume that the meaning of the word shamarti is 'I kept'. But this is not necessarily so. We see in this coming week's parsha, after Yosef had his dreams, the pasuk recounts (37:11) "ve'aviv shamar is hadavar." Rashi there interprets this to mean that he waited and watched [to see] when it would come. This is the meaning of shamarti here as well. Yaakov may not have actually kept all 613 mitzvos while in Lavan's house. But being outside of Eretz Yisroel, there were many mitzvos he could not keep. In fact, Ramba"n is of the opinion that all the mitzvos did not apply to the avos while outside of Eretz Yisroel. So for 20 years, Yaakov had been waiting and yearning for his opportunity to once again be in the position to keep the 613 mitzvos. He was telling this to Eisav to show him how long he had been waiting for this moment, and how determined he was and therefore, there will be no stopping him.

Have a shavua tov..

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

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Friday, November 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

After Leah gives birth to 4 boys, Rachel, following a confrontation with Yaakov, gives over her maidservant to Yaakov so that he may produce children with her. She declares with utmost certainty, (30:3) "ve'ibaneh gam anochi mimenah," and I, too, will be built up through her. This statement is in noticeable contrast to Sarah's statement when she gives Hagar to Avraham. There, she states (16:2) "ulai ibaneh mimenah," perhaps I will be built up through her. 

 

There's a simple explanation for the different approaches taken by the imahos. Although the Torah states that Sarah was barren, without children, Avraham was equally childless. The exact cause of their childlessness was seemingly unknown. Had Avraham been the infertile one, giving him Hagar would not have helped.

 

When Manoach and his wife were childless before the birth of Shimshon (Shofetim 13), the midrash (Vayikra Rabba 9) recounts that there was a conflict between them as two who was responsible. That is why the angel appeared to her to tell her that she was the infertile one, but that they would soon have a child. We see from Sarah's handling of her situation that no such conflict existed between Avraham and Sarah. Sarah was perfectly ready to accept that she was the barren one and have Avraham reproduce through Hagar, albeit with that slight hint of uncertainty.

 

The situation with Yaakov and Rachel, of course, was completely different. Yaakov had already fathered four children with Leah. Rachel knew that she was barren and Yaakov was not. She had no reason to worry that Yaakov's union with Bilhah would not produce children and therefore, was certain that she would be built up through her.

 
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
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

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Friday, November 9

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 18th yahrtzeit is this coming Sunday, the 3rd of Kisleiv.  

When Eisav returns from his hunting escapades, he is so mortally fatigued that he was willing to give up his first-born rights for a simple bowl of lentils. After Yaakov and Eisav finally agree, the pasuk recounts (25:34) that Yaakov gave Eisav bread and lentil soup. Why did Yaakov give him bread? That was never part of the deal.

 

R' Ari Storch, in "Tif'eres Aryeh," offers a novel approach. This sale is altogether puzzling as the first born-rights have not yet come into existence, a davar shelo ba la'olam. According to Talmudic tradition, the sale of such an entity is not valid and it is as if it were never sold. How then did this sale even work?

 

The Tur deals with this issue and discusses many possible answers. He suggests one answer from his father, the Rosh. When a sale is accompanied by the taking of an oath, the oath validates that sale even if it is of a seemingly illegitimate nature such as this one. We see clearly that Yaakov added an oath to the sale which would have otherwise been considered unnecessary. 

 

From the gemara (Nedarim 28a) it appears that an oath which is taken by duress may be invalidated by contrary thoughts at the time of the oath. That is, if the oath taker was thinking at the time that he was only taking the oath to escape the situation of duress, that oath may be null and void. Eisav came back from his outing thinking he was about to die. He could certainly have claimed that the oath he made with Yaakov was simply made for his own survival, but he did not mean it. Yaakov therefore first fed him bread after which his life was no longer in jeopardy. Eisav then had no claim to invalidate the oath he took to affirm the sale of the first-born rights for the lentil soup.

 

 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 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

This discussion is covered from a dikduk angle on Dikdukian. In Eliezer's prayer after discovering that he had happened upon Rivkah, he exclaims (24:27) "anochi baderech nachani HaShem, beis achei adoni." He blesses HaShem for having led him to the house of his master's brothers – brothers in plural. When recounting this prayer to Rivkah's family, he states (24:48) "lakachas es bas achi adoni," to take the daughter of my master's brother – brother in singular. Surely, great care needs to be taken to differentiate these two words when laining. But it is certainly puzzling that the words are changed even with respect to the very same prayer.

One reader humourously noted that Besuel is the son of Nachor, Avraham's brother, but also the son of Milka, the son of Haran, Avraham's other brother. So Rivka was both Avraham's niece and grandniece and descended from two of Avraham's brothers. However, this does not explain the change.

Another reader suggested, based on the above that the plural is certainly appropriate. This is only in the first verse where, in context, he is referring to beis, the house, which was indeed that of  both brothers. But in the second verse he is referring to Rivkah as the daughter of his master's brother. Here the plural simply wouldn't be appropriate.

I suggest, however, that Eliezer was perhaps adjusting his words for a very clever reason. When he embarked on his journey, he did not know where he would end up. If he were to successfully encounter Avraham's family, he wasn't even certain which of the brothers it would be. Perhaps we can understand the term beis achei adoni as the house of one of my master's brothers. However, this would not have been a very kind way of addressing the actual family from which he had chosen Yitzchak's wife. The implication to them would have been, "it could have been you, it could have been someone else." So when speaking to them he used the more specific, implying that this was the brother of his master he was seeking all along.

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, October 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben Avi Mori Reuven Pinchas, a"h, whose 42nd yahrtzeit is tomorrow, the 18th of Cheshvan.

As well, this Tuesday, the 21st of Chesvan, is the 19th yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel ben Yoel.

There are many distinct differences between Avraham's experience with Avimelech in Gerar and his experience with Paroah in Mitzrayim in last week's parsha. One can certainly assess the episode in Gerar as having a slightly more pleasant outcome. Rather than being kindly asked to leave as he was in Mitzrayim, Avraham ended up settling in Gerar. Rashi explains simply (12:19) that Paroah was looking out for Avraham's well-being and knew that his people were steeped in immorality. However, it would seem that the distinct actions of Avimelech and Paroah may also be explained by the character of the monarchs themselves. Both Paroah and Avimelech had their entire houses afflicted with a plague. However, when Paroah summons Avraham he exclaims, (12:18) "What is this that you have done to ME?!" Avimelech, on the other hand, approaches Avraham and ask him (20:9) "What have you done to US?!" Paroah was clearly a more selfish individual than Avimelech. Paroah cared only about himself whereas Avimelech showed concern for others.

 

Furthermore, we find that Avraham presented an alibi to Avimelech and said nothing to defend himself to Paroah. The reason for this seems to be that Paroah did not even give him a chance to answer. When Avimelech asks Avraham why he acted in the way that he did, he clearly wanted an answer and was ready to listen to one. Paroah was not interested in what Avraham might have had to say and did not let him speak. These factors, although not compelling, seem to indicate that Paroah's dismissal of Avraham was not out of Paroah's genuine concern for Avraham's well-being but more likely a sign of his short-temperedness.

 

Lastly, when Avraham makes a feast to celebrate the weaning of Yitzchak, Rashi writes (21:8) that he invited the gedolei hador, Sheim, Eiver and Avimelech. Avimelech must have been a respectable individual to be included in the same breath as Sheim and Eiver. Therefore, his good-natured approach to the confrontation with Avraham seems to be a reflection of his character.


Have a good Shabbos.


Eliezer Bulka

WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

AstroTorah: A Scratch on the Wall

AstroTorah: Witnesses to Sedom's Destruction

AstroTorah: The Mysterious Midrash by R' Ari Storch

AstroTorah: I Can't Believe it's not Fresh by R' Ari Storch

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