The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, June 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar / Shavuos

Although I am only covering Shavous in the shtikle, please explore the many intriguing blog posts on Bemidbar below:

The holiday of Shavuos has a unique name. All of the other holidays that adorn our calendar are aptly named for something to do with the chag itself. We sit in sukkos on Sukkos, for example. Rosh HaShanah is the beginning of the year. Our upcoming chag, however, is not called Chag HaTorah, not even Chag HaCheesecake. Rather, it is called Shavuos, referring to the weeks that proceed it. Why is this chag so differently named.


It would seem that the naming of Shavuos is meant to send us a message. We are not meant to view the time between Pesach and Shavuos as a mere lead-up to Shavuos. Rather, these days are an integral part of the chag itself. B'nei Yisrael could not have merited being given the Torah if they had not gone through the seven-week period of spiritual cleansing. Likewise, we must use this period as a preparation for Shavuos just as they did. The preparation is the essence of the chag. Indeed, Nachalas Yaakov writes that the reason why there is no chol hamoeid for Shavuos is because Shavuos is connected to Pesach as one unit and the period of sefiras ha'omer is the chol hamoeid between the two.


On that note, I heard a wonderful thought from my cousin, Dr. Yoel Jakobovits. Indeed, the name "sefiras ha'omer " is rather strange. We are not counting the omer. We are counting from the bringing of the omer. But so what? Why is that the defining characteristic? Would it not have been more appropriate to call it something simpler yet more succinct like "sefiras hayamim?"


HaKesav veHaKabbalah offers a fascinating insight into this name. In the episode of the yefas to'ar (Devarim 21:14), if the woman is no longer desired, she is sent away. The pasuk says, "lo sis'ameir bah," you shall not enslave her. Rashi comments that imra'ah is a Persian word denoting servitude and utilization. This is the same root as omer. Sefiras ha'omer, therefore, is not meant just to remind us of the korban omer. Rather, it is the period which leads up to Shavuos, when we established our ultimate servitude to HaShem and His Torah. Each year, we devote seven weeks towards the reaffirming of that servitude. This understanding gives much more meaning to sefiras ha'omer and what it is meant to accomplish.


Another interesting perspective is offered by Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh – not on the word omer but on the word usfartem. He references the midrash that identifies the stone that the luchos were crafted from as sanperinun, possibly sapphire. The period of sefira is a cleansing process to wipe of the filth that had gathered through our time in Mitzrayim, or in our time, a time to work on our middos and prepare for matan torah by which time we will hopefully regain our luster like the sapphire stone.


Have a good Shabbos and chag samei'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase

Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky

Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers

Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability

Dikdukian: Be or Ba?

Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey

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

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Friday, May 31

The Weekly Shtikle - Bechukosai

A very special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to our dear daughter, Shaindy, who will be celebrating her Bas Mitzvah this Sunday.


This past Tuesday was the 9th yahrtzeit of my great aunt, Lady Amélie Jakobovits, a"h. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Mayla bas Eliyahu.


Yesterday, the 25th of Iyar, was the 18th yahrtzeit of my mother, a"h. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Tzirel Nechamah bas Tovia Yehudah.


In the beginning of the parsha, we are promised that if we follow HaShem's laws, we will receive great reward. Among those promised is the great blessing of peace. "Venasati shalom ba'aretz." (26:6) This peace requires definition. It would seem that the Torah then proceeds to explain the nature of this peace. "Ush'chavtem v'ein macharid..." you shall rest and none shall be fearful. The next pasuk reads "ur'daftem es oyveichem, venaflu lifneichem becharev," You will chase your enemies and they will fall in front of you by the sword. This seems, at first glance, to be the exact antithesis of peace. Is the Torah not promising peace then describing victory through war? I believe the message that the Torah is teaching here is that true peace is not living with your enemies but rather, living without your enemies. Surely, this is not meant to advocate the wholesale murder of our enemies for the sake of peace. But I do believe it offers deep insight into the Torah definition of peace and when we should feel that we have achieved it.


The world at large, particularly those who lean to the left (and I'm not talking about the seder night,) seems unable to accept this idea and insists on forcing us to allow our enemies to live among us. Perhaps this definition of peace is something specific to the Jewish people. Bil'am proclaimed (Bamidbar 23:8) "They are a nation that dwells in solitude and does not consider itself among the nations." Our ultimate goal is to be a nation of solitude. To allow other nations to dwell in our midst is antithetical to our purpose and thus, cannot be an ingredient in the Jewish definition of peace.


A couple of excerpts from Tanach illustrate this point. In the episode involving Dinah and Shechem (Bereishis 34) the sons of Yaakov offer a plan in which they would live among the people of Shechem. When Shechem and his father return to their city, they proclaim (pasuk 21) "Ha'anashim haeileh 'sheleimim' heim itanu." This proposal is misconstrued as a bid for peace. But the words of the sons of Yaakov, when examined closely, contain no mention of any word connected with peace. What the Shechemites perceived as peace, the sons of Yaakov considered no peace at all.


The essence of the peace treaty between Yitzchak and Avimelech (Bereishis 26:28-31) was a separation of one from the other such that one does not infringe on the other's property.


The King of Ammon tries to broker an agreement with Yiftach HaGil'adi to return the land that was conquered by B'nei Yisrael before crossing over to Eretz Yisrael. He appeals to Yiftach to return it "in peace." This is precursor to the modern-day concept of "land for peace." Fortunately, Yiftach was not as naïve as some of the leaders of our day and knew that this would be no peace at all and refused the request.


We are commanded (Devarim 20:10-12) to open with an offer of peace before waging war on a city. However, the ensuing pesukim reveal that this peace entails the subordination of the city to our rule, effectively eliminating it as an enemy. The only alternative is war.


Indeed, the term "shalom" is often associated with only one party. Shalom does not need to be between two entities. On its highest levels, it is experienced within one cohesive unit, exclusive of any external interconnection. Even when we refer to shalom bein ish le'ishto, peace between a man and his wife, or the more commonly used term, shelom bayis, we are speaking ideally not of a peace between two separate entities but the peace of the home functioning as one singular entity. This is the shalom that we are promised here, a peace to be experienced in solitude. May it come speedily in our day.


!חזק, חזק, ונתחזק


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule
Al Pi Cheshbon: An Ironic Observation

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


Friday, May 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Behar

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Fraidy and Shmuel Clinton of Lakewood on the birth of a baby boy Wednesday night. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Shonek and Jakobovits families with a special mazal tov to Oma Jakobovits as this was the second of two great great grandchildren born this week.


At the very beginning of the parsha we have the very famous question of Rashi: "Ma inyan shemittah eitzel Har Sinai?" Why is Har Sinai mentioned in connection to the mitzvah of shemittah more so than any other mitzvah? This phrase is so well-known that it has become a Hebrew colloquialism equivalent to, "What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" Rashi's answer is that just as the entire mitzvah of shemittah and all its minutia were all spelled out at Har Sinai, so to all the mitzvos were taught in their entirety at Har Sinai.


But it seems the question still remains unanswered. Why is shemittah chosen as the paradigmatic mitzvah with which to teach us this? I believe a possible answer relates to the immediacy of the application of the mitzvos. Of the 613 mitzvos, there were many that were applicable immediately. Some mitzvos became applicable later. Some that were connected to Eretz Yisroel only became applicable after they crossed over into the land, some later still. The mitzvah of shemittah was not observed until much later. The midrash states that the mitzvah didn't even apply until after the land was conquered and divided and thus, it wasn't until the 21st year that it was observed. There was certainly no rush to deliver the complex details of this special mitzvah. And yet, we are told that it was taught at Har Sinai. Surely, all other mitzvos were as well.


(One might ask, what about yoveil? Yoveil contains an explicit mitzvah for beis din to count the years leading up to it and therefore, it became applicable immediately, or at least at year 15.)


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
DIkdukian: Hearing Los

Dikdukian: How Lo Can You Go?

Dikdukian: Even Lo-er

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

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Friday, May 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Kedoshim

This week's parsha may be short but it also contains the highest mitzvah density (or mitzvos-per-pasuk, 0.8 if you're counting) of any parsha. Perhaps the most well-known mitzvah of all would have to be (19:18) ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha, which children are taught at a very young age and even gentiles unfamiliar with the Bible are aware of. It is interesting to note, however, the context in which this famous phrase appears. The mitzvos which precede this one are not to hate one's friend and to rebuke them when they have done something wrong and not to take revenge or bear a grudge against one's friend.

It would seem that the Torah is teaching a very simple lesson. The true test of friendship is when things are not so peachy. When one sees his friend acting in a manner not in accordance with the Torah and must rebuke him or if one friend happens to wrong the other, if they are able to pull through those situations in the proper way as prescribed by the Torah then they will be able to achieve the level of ahavah between friends which is expected of us. At the same time, the Torah also seems to be delivering a message about rebuke. It is not simply a matter of preventing a transgression. It is discussed in the context of loving your neighbour because it must be done out of love for a fellow Jew and concern for their spiritual well-being, not just a form of citizen's law enforcement.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Sukas David

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, May 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos

Special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew and niece, Dovid Nisson and Tova Shonek on the birth of a baby girl, Tzivya, born over Pesach. Mazal tov to the extended Shonek, Bulka and Jakobovits families including the great great grandmother, Oma Jakovits.


In this week's parsha (18:21), we are introduced to the prohibition against the brutal practice of giving over one's child to the molech. The exact details of the molech are discussed in the gemara Sanhedrin. (I figured this would be apropos since my son and I recently finished the mishnayos of Sanhedring as part of Mishnah yomis.) In a nutshell, it refers to a father giving over his child to some form of avodah zarah. In the gemara (64b) quite an intriguing law concerning molech is taught. Rav Acha berei d'Rava states that one who gives over all of his children to the molech is exempt from the punishment for molech. He infers this from the word in the pasuk, "umizar'acha," from your offspring and not all of your offspring.


Tosafos ask a very simple question. Suppose someone has two children. If they give over one of their children to the molech and are liable for the death penalty, how is it possible for them to simply reverse their fate by transgressing all over again with their second child? Tosafos answer that this exemption would apply to someone with only one child or someone who gives over all of them at once. But it seems the assumption remains that in the scenario above, the death penalty would still apply.


R' Tzvi Pesach Frank, in Har Tzvi, raises an interesting question. In order to be given punishment, we require that the transgressor be properly warned beforehand. There is a concept called hasra'as safeik, which is a conditional warning where the action in which the transgressor will be engaging is not definitively a transgression of the specific prohibition. For example, for one to be warned not to throw a rock into a crowd of people because he might kill someone is hasra'as safeik for it is not clear that he will kill someone. According to some opinions this is not a valid warning. Therefore, according to those opinions, how can one ever receive punishment for molech? When you warn the father, it is an invalid warning because he can simply give over all of his children and be exempt. R' Frank suggests that the concept of hasra'as safeik is only problematic when it is uncertain that the prohibition will be transgressed at all. However, when a father gives over all his children, it is not that he has not transgressed the prohibition of molech. Rather, he has transgressed the prohibition but is merely exempt from the punishment. Therefore, since he definitely will be transgressing the molech prohibition, the warning is valid.


Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, April 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

For this year's thought on the haggadah, I would like to continue with the theme we discussed on the megillah – the applicability of our ancient stories to modern times – while touching on some points we have discussed in the past.

As we explained a number of years ago, one of the central charges of the seder experience is to see or consider ourselves as if we were part of the exodus from Egypt. On a simple level, this demands of us to use our imagination to travel back many thousands of years ago as if we ourselves were there during the exodus from Egypt. But this connection to the deliverance from Egypt is experienced in both directions. In addition to projecting ourselves back to that time, we can also project the exodus experience forward as we realize HaShem's salvation over the course of our history and in even more so, in our time.

The "fuel" for this journey is provided by another highlight of the seder – vehi she'amdah. As we take a good, long look at our history and come to the realization that our existence is threatened in every generation, it is but a simple step to realize that every generation HaShem provides a new geula of sorts.

Going through the haggadah, there was one passage that stood out as frighteningly applicable to our times. In the section of the haggadah that expounds on the pesukim from Ki Savo with the pesukim from sefer Shemos, we examine the phrase (Devarim 26:6) "vayareiu osanu." The way the haggadah explains this phrase, it speaks not of the Egyptians treating us badly but rather, making us appear bad, as it is connected to the pasuk (Shemos 1:10) dealing with the Egyptian "solution." The mistreatment of the Jews is justified by the claim that the Jews could potentially join forces with another enemy to bring Egypt down.

In The Egyptian Holocaust, David Farkas explores the many striking similarities between the subjugation in Egypt and the Holocaust. Indeed, the charge of dual and dueling loyalties (point #5) was prevalent in both cases. This isn't really unique to persecution of Jews. Since human beings do have a natural inclination to be reasonable and oppose mass murder, every entity that wishes to destroy what it considers to be an enemy, needs to engage in a significant campaign of dehumanizing that enemy in order to justify their annihilation.
For Jews, with their strong sense of community and national identity, the charge of dual loyalty is not a difficult case to make. This has been true throughout history and is certainly not a modern invention in the era of Jewish statehood, although it does seem to provide an easier target. Unfortunately, these claims have come to the fore in very recent times with statements by individuals in frighteningly significant positions. We must certainly be mindful of these threats while at the same time being proud of the positive national qualities that give rise to them.

Have a good Shabbos and Chag Kasher ve'Sameiach!

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

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


Friday, April 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

This Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the 13th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

This coming Tuesday, 4 Nissan, marks the 1st yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Rebbetzin Faigie Frankel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Leah Feiga bas Aharon Tzvi.

In this week's parsha we are taught about the laws concerning tzara'as that is found on the walls of one's house. There is an intriguing difficulty found in pasuk 14:37, "Vera'a es hanega vehineh hanega b`kiros habayis sheka'aruros yerakrakos o adamdamos umar'eihen shafal min hakir." First, the nega is referred to in the singular. However, in the rest of the pasuk it is described in the plural.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, gives a fascinating, yet somewhat complicated answer in the name of R' Netta Grunblatt (of Memphis, Tennessee). We are taught in the gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) that the required size of the tzara'as on the house is the size of two beans whereas other negaim require only one bean. One may deliberate on the following point: Is it that the required size of nig'ei batim is twice that of other negaim or that nig'ei batim requires two negaim? The difference between the two is illustrated with the precise language used by the Rambam. He writes, in regular cases of tzaa'as, that a nega smaller than a bean is "not a nega." However, in the laws of nig'ei batim, he writes that if the spot is less than two beans, it is tahor. The implication is that it is still considered a nega, but is nevertheless tahor since it hasn't reached the required size. [The halachic ramifications of this specification arise in connection with the gemara in Shabbos that states that the prohibition of cutting tzara'as out of one's skin applies even to a nega tahor.]


It seems from the Rambam that the proper interpretation would be the second, that nig'ei batim require two nega'im of total size two beans. Therefore, if the spot is less than two beans, it is still a nega, only it is tahor. This, suggests R' Grunblatt, is the explanation for the change in the pasuk from singular to plural. In the beginning, we are referring to the spot as a whole. However, since in essence we are dealing with two negaim, the pasuk describes them in the plural.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: White Hair

Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin


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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on