The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, April 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

The beginning of this week's parsha recounts the proceedings on the eighth day of the consecration of the mishkan. After preparing a series of korbanos, Aharon raises his hands, blesses the nation and then steps down from preparing the chatasolah and shelamim sacrifices (9:22). Rashi writes that the blessing that Aharon gave to the nation was the traditional birkas kohanim (Bemidbar 6:24-26).

Ba'al HaTurim offers a concise, yet interesting insight into the relevance of birkas kohanim to this specific occasion. Aharon HaKohein had just completed the preparation of three korbanos and the three blessings of birkas kohanim each correspond to one of the sacrifices. The first blessing, "Yevarechecha HaShem veyishmerecha," is the berachah of shemirah, watching over. We find the theme of watching over in connection with prevention of sin, as in the song of Chanah (Shemuel I 2:9) "Raglei chasidav yishmor," He guards the ways of the pious. This is traditionally interpreted as HaShem guarding the righteous from unintentional sin. This blessing, therefore, corresponds to the korban chatas, brought for inadvertent transgressions.

The second blessing is connected to the korban olah by means of the pasuk referring to the trek to Yerushalayim for the shalosh regalim, (Shemos 34:24) "Ba'alosecha leiraos," when you go up to be seen. The going up to Yerushalayim facilitates our "being seen" before HaShem. The olah, all of which goes up to the Heavens, warrants the second blessing that HaShem will illuminate His countenance towards us.

The final blessing of birkas kohanim, "veyaseim lecha shalom," is the bestowing of peace. The root of the word shelamim is shalom, peace, as Rashi (3:1) explains. The shelamim brings peace to the world and peace to all the parties involved in the korban because each one gets a portion. This establishes the most obvious connection of the three between the shelamim and the final blessing. Aharon invoked birkas kohanim not as an arbitrary series of blessings but one that was specifically related to the service he was performing.

Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Lehavdil

Al Pi Cheshbon: Omer Counting in Different Bases

 

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, April 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Shevi'i shel Pesach

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

 

On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate the great miracles that HaShem performed at Yam Suf. Although the festival of Pesach in general seems more centered around the actual exodus which occurred six days prior, the splitting of the sea is the center of attention as Pesach draws to a close. As we relive this momentous time in our history, a few fundamental questions come to mind. How does keriyas Yam Suf fit into the grand scheme of yetzias Mitzrayim? Why was it necessary? Why couldn't B'nei Yisrael simply have left Mitzrayim, never to hear from those wretched Egyptians again?

 

One thing seems relatively certain: B'nei Yisrael did not need the Egyptian army to be decimated in order for their freedom to be complete. It would seem, therefore, that the main purpose of keriyas Yam Suf was not as much the saving of the Jews as it was the destruction of the Egyptians. And surely there is a lesson we must take from it as well.

 

To delve further into the matter, we need to rewind to the very beginning of sefer Shemos. Rashi (1:10) explains the strategy behind Paroah's master plan. He was aware that HaShem had sworn never to bring destruction through water again. By orchestrating his semi-genocide through water, Paroah believed he was handcuffing the Almighty, so to speak, into being unable to exact revenge. This is a very extreme level of blasphemy - perhaps even worse than the denial of HaShem's existence - the recognition of HaShem and the assertion of some degree of inferiority.

 

Perhaps the 10 plagues were a direct punishment for the enslavement and treatment of B'nei Yisrael. The crimes committed against man were accounted for. However, the crimes against God had heretofore gone unpunished. Keriyas Yam Suf and the subsequent demise of a significant contingent of the Egyptian nation therefore represents the Divine retribution meted out against the Egyptians coming full circle. At the same time, it teaches us a very valuable lesson. We are constantly given little hints as to HaShem's ways and how He runs the world. But we must realize that these are nothing more than hints and what lies beneath is a design far too complex for human understanding. We find a similar theme in the story of Purim  (see Megillah 11b regarding Belshatzar and Achashveirosh's erroneous calculations as to the supposed end of the Babylonian exile) and now we find it again in the story of Pesach. These lessons and ideas provide insight into how the events at Yam Suf fit into the story of yetzias Mitzrayim and as well, our observance of the chag of Pesach.

 

Have a good Shabbos and chag samei'ach.

 

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Omer Counting in Different Bases

Dikdukian: Exceptions Ahoy!


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, March 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

 

This past year has been a difficult one on a national level in many different aspects, not the least of which was the loss of many of our great leaders. One such giant was Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of British Commonwealth. In his honour, I am resending my initial thoughts on his haggadah, of which I am a big fan and I have quoted numerous times:

 

The haggadah includes commentary directly on the actual text as well as a collection of insightful essays in the back. There is a common theme that presents itself throughout - that the story of yetzias Mitzrayim cannot be viewed simply as a singular historical event but rather a monumentally significant episode that shaped and continues to shape us as individuals and more importantly, as a people.

 

In the essay "The Missing Fifth," Rabbi Sacks begins by going over the well-known "fours" - the four questions, four sons, four cups and four expressions of redemption. Four fours, in fact. He goes on to explain how each group actually has a missing fifth - a fifth question, a fifth son, a fifth cup and a fifth expression of redemption. Furthermore, there is yet a fifth group of four - the four pesukim from Ki Sisa which we expound upon in the main part of Maggid. There, too, there is a fifth pasuk, "Vayevi'einu el hamakom hazeh.." which we do not discuss. The common theme of these missing fifths is tied to the ultimate completion of the redemption from Mitzrayim, namely settling Eretz Yisrael and our ultimate redemption which has eluded us for so many generations but feels ever so much closer.

 

I couldn't even attempt to express these ideas nearly as eloquently as R' Sacks but this essay, as well as the themes expressed in other essays, inspired a perspective on the entire seder experience which was new to me and changed the way I understand the "duties of the day." The mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is in fact a two-way street. It is well known and much discussed that we must do our best to transport ourselves back to the great redemption from the hands of Egyptian servitude - "chayav adam lir'os/lehar'os es atzmo..." We need to imagine ourselves there. However, at the same time, we need to "bring the geulah to us." We need to understand that yetzias Mitzrayim is nothing short of a blueprint for HaShem's constant Divine intervention on our behalf. This is perhaps made most evident by the "Vehi She'amdah" passage where we declare that it was not just in that generation but in every generation that our very existence hangs in the balance and HaShem ensures that we survive and endure.

 

Just as the Dayeinu song expresses the ultimate purpose and completion of our exodus as the acceptance of the Torah and settling of Eretz Yisrael, statements such as "lashanah haba'ah b'nei chorin" and the themes found in the songs of Nirtzah express our trust and our yearning for our ultimate redemption, may it come speedily in our day.

 

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

 

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


Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Na'asah

Dikdukian: Shalsheles

Dikdukian: Hagieinu vs Yagieinu

Dikdukian: Chad Gadya


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, March 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayikra

A belated Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew Yaakov Yosef Shonek and his wife Miriam (née Mandelbaum) on their recent marriage. Mazal tov to the extended Shonek, Bulka and Mandelbaum families.

 

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

 

This week's parsha deals with a number of different versions of the korban chatas, the sin offering. The sin offering of the nasi is introduced in a slightly different way than the others. The other versions of the chatas offering are introduced with the word (ve)'im, and if... The nasi's chatas, however, is introduced (4:22) with the word asher, when the nasi sins.

 

Rabbeinu Bachya approaches this linguistic discrepancy in the simplest manner. He writes that it is the nature of a man in a position of power to be consumed by haughtiness and hubris which is most likely to lead to sin. So, while the sin of others is introduced more indefinitely, "if it would happen to be that a person were to sin," the sin of the nasi is introduced almost as a certainty.

 

Rashi provides a more homiletic interpretation of the word asher from the midrashAsher is like ashrei, praised. The pasuk is actually giving praise to the nasi, not for committing the sin, God forbid, but for having the integrity to come forth and admit it. After all, without the admission there would be no sacrifice. The high public position makes it all the more embarrassing to admit guilt. Praised is the generation whose nasi swallows that embarrassment and has the gumption to do what is required of him.

 

Malbim offers another positive approach related to that of Rashi's. The words asher and im are actually interchangeable (see Rashi Rosh HaShanah 3a). There is one slight difference between the word im and the word asher, used to mean im. The word asher is used to denote a possibility which we would like to occur while im simply implies a possibility. The best example of this is in parshas Re'eih. The parsha begins by explaining what will trigger the blessings and the curses. The pasuk states (Devarim 11:27) "Es haberachah asher tishme'u... (pasuk 28vehakelalah im lo sishme'u." The translation is the same for both, if you will listen or if you will not listen. However, since listening is what we want to happen, the word asher is used whereas the word im is used for not listening. Here, too, we want the nasi to be one who will come forth and admit his sins. It is his position of power and influence that makes it most important for him to possess this quality. Therefore, the Torah introduces his sin offering with the word asher.

 

Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

 

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

Dikdukian: Birkas HaIlanos


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, March 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayakheil / Pekudei

Monday, 2 Nissan, marks the 15th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

 

Wednesday, 4 Nissan, marks the 3rd yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Rebbetzin Faigie Frankel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Leah Feiga bas Aharon Tzvi.


The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

 

I had some other plans for this week's shtikle but discovered an unfinished draft from last year which I felt would be apropos as a flashback, considering we have now come full circle with a full year since Coronavirus took full hold. I felt it's a nice way to look back, take stock and examine if we have realized the goals we have set out to accomplish:

For this week's shtikle, amid all of the worldwide turmoil due to the Corona virus, I feel the most appropriate thought is one I heard from Rabbi Yisroel Motzen of Ner Tamid here in Baltimore as he closed his shul this Sunday morning. (Video available here.) 
This week's parshios, which most of us will unfortunately not hear in a shul, detail the building of the mishkan, the instructions for which began with parshas Terumah. The famous introductory pasuk reads (25:8) "ve'asu li mikdash, veshachanti besocham." The famous observation, of course, is that HaShem does not declare that He will dwell in it, namely the mishkan. Rather, he will dwell amongst them¸ the people. The proper dedication of the mikdash will cause the Shechinah to dwell among all of us.
This week, and the weeks that will follow, it seems, will present a... [that's where I left off]

Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Ve'asa Vetzalel
Dikdukian: Kikar Zahav
Dikdukian: Sham and Shamah

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, March 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Sisa / Parah

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

 

Last week, we discussed the juxtaposition of parshios to the yamim tovim. Finding a connection between the special parshios we read this year and the weeks on which they fall is slightly more challenging. However, the connection between Parah and Ki Sisa (the parsha on which it falls in most non-leap years) is abundantly clear. Rashi in Chukas (Bemidbar 19:22), based on R' Moshe HaDarshan, explains the entire parah adumah process as an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf which, of course, we read about in Ki Sisa. He cites the well-known parable: When the son of a maidservant soils the palace of the king it is expected of his mother to come and clean up the mess. So too, the the parah adumah cleans up the "mess" we made with the Golden Calf.

 

While pondering this parable, a seemingly obvious question occurred to me. Why, in fact, was the calf the animal of choice? One would expect that if they were to worship a golden figure, it would be one of authority. Why not a full-grown cow or a more menacing presence such as the Charging Bull near Wall Street? Why the image of a young calf? There is plenty of discussion among the primary commentaries as to why this specific species was chosen - a cow, as opposed to a sheep or goat. However, I was unable to find any explanation as to why specifically a young calf. I do not think it is plausible to suggest that Aharon specifically made that way for that reason - to be less authoritative. (I was later told that Rav Hirsch suggests this approach.) We find hundreds of years later that Yerav'am ben Nevat also specifically made golden calves. Although it seems this was done specifically to mimic the original calf. I welcome any suggestions.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim be'Simchah!

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com


Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Kol Annnos

Dikdukian: Yeiaseh vs.Taaseh by Ephraim Stulberg

Dikdukian: No More Drinking

Dikdukian: Minimizing Sin

Dikdukian: Whys and Wherefores

Dikdukian: Need to Bring this Up

Dikdukian: Oops (Parah)

Dikdukian: Let Your Heart Not be Desolate (Parah)


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

 

 

Thursday, February 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim / Tetzaveh

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

 

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my father.

Please include Reuven Pinchas ben Yehudis in your tefillos.

 

As we have discussed on a number of occasions, the juxtaposition of certain parshios to certain events in the calendar is no coincidence and there is often an underlying message to be found. In almost every non-leap year, the Shabbos before Purim, Shabbas Zachor, falls out on parshas Tetzaveh. In anomalous years such as this, it falls out on Terumah, with Purim itself running right up against Tetzaveh (or on it, for Shushan Purim.) There must be a connection between these parshios and Purim.

 

As we know, HaShem's name is completely missing from the text of the megillah. But I find that in addition to that, the megillah also lacks a strong historical context. From the text itself, we know very little about the story's place in history, what preceded it, what followed it, and even some explanation of the events recounted. Who was Achashveirosh? What was his relationship with the Jews? What was his party all about? Perhaps the only inkling of historical context in the megillah is the brief biography of Mordechai, in which we are told that he was part of the final exile at the end of the first Temple. For "the rest of the story," we must turn to our sages.

 

Over the course of the megillah, we go to great lengths to demonize the evil Haman, and rightfully so. We make loud noises at the mere sound of his name and then stick in a good curse for him and his wife in the Shoshanas Yaakov song that follows the reading. But what about Achashveirosh? Where does he fit in? There's no mention of him in the song. And we certainly don't make noise for him. (Would the reading ever end if we did?) But we are told in the gemara that the Jews had already begun rebuilding the beis haMikdash. It was Achashveirosh who put an abrupt halt to the reconstruction. There was a well-known prophecy by both Yirmiyahu and Daniel that the Jews would go through 70 years of exile after which they would return to Eretz Yisrael and rebuild the beis haMikdash. Belshatzar, a previous ruler, had come to the conclusion that 70 years had passed and rejoiced that the prophecy would not come true. His calculation was erroneous and he was dead by the next morning. Achashveirosh made some adjustments to the calculation and determined that now according to his enhanced calculation, which would also prove to be erroneous, the 70 years had passed and there was no more hope for the Jews (Megillah 11b.) This was the cause for celebration. The keilim mikeilim shonim (1:7) were in fact the vessels of the beis haMikdash

 

It is understandable that Esther could not have written anything in the megillah itself that would shed a negative light on her husband, the king. But the midrashim make it quite clear what Achashveirosh was all about. Perhaps the juxtaposition of parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh are meant to help preserve that historical context. We spend two complete parshios detailing the beauty and the splendour of the mishkan and the men who were tasked with doing its work. That special beauty was even enhanced in the edifice constructed by Shelomoh to be the permanent dwelling place of the Holy Presence. After nearly 70 years since its destruction, we were ever so close to getting it back. The beauty and the splendour would return once again. The story of Esther chronicles the hurdles and obstacles we needed to overcome to finally reach that moment.

 

Purim samei'ach and good Shabbos!

Mishenichnas Adar marbim be'simchah

 

Please see my Purim archives for some more insightful (not inciteful) thoughts on Purim.

 

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

 

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