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Friday, March 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav

In this week's parsha, the korban todah is discussed. The todah is brought as a thanks to HaShem for one of four reasons discussed by Chaza"l. The todah consists of a sacrifice and 40 loaves of bread. Netzi"v, in Ha'amek Davar points out that even though the todah is a shelamim sacrifice whose prescribed time for eating is a day and a half, the todah may only be eaten that night. This, in addition to the excessive bread requirement will make it impossible for the one bringing the korban to consume everything on his own and thus he will be compelled to make a gathering for all his friends wherein he will praise HaShem in public, in order that he not leave over any of the korban after the night. This, suggests Netzi"v, is the reason why the Torah commanded the bringing of the todah in this fashion.

With this concept, Netzi"v (in Herchev Davar on the bottom of Ha'amek Davar) explains the pesukim from Tehillim that we recite in Hallel: "L'cha ezbach zevach toda, uv'shem HaShem ekra", L'cha ezbach refers to the korban (animal) which is referred to as a zevach todahUv'shem HaShem ekra refers to the public thanks to HaShem that is given at the gathering of friends. Nedarai laShem ashalem refers to the korban. In "negda na l'chol amo", the word negda literally comes from the words neged, opposite. However, Netzi"v suggests it can also be construed as coming  from the word haggadah, to tell, referring to the telling over of HaShem's praise that will take place at the gathering. Finally, bechatzros beis HaShem, besochechi Yerushalayim would at first glance seem to be contradictory for bechatzros etc. clearly refers to the boundaries of the Beis HaMikdash whereas besochechi Yerushalayim refers to the entire city. However, according to the Netziv's interpretation it is clear that bechatzros beis HaShem is referring to the korban which is brought within the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash. The meal in which the bread is eaten, however, will broadcast HaShem's praise throughout all of Yerushalayim. 

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: נעשה

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Wednesday, March 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

On a previous occasion, we have discussed that the story of Purim mirrors the story of yetzias Mitzrayim in many significant ways. However, it recently occurred to me that the very same time the story very much foreshadows the future destiny of our people, more significantly the events of the past century or so.


The period of exile between the two batei mikdash was certainly a difficult time. The destruction at the hands of Nevuchadnezzar and the subsequent subjugation in Bavel took its toll. But Haman's decree was a threat unlike any other which, if carried out, would have meant the demise of our nation. Similarly, in the period of galus we currently find ourselves, it can certainly be argued that threats we faced at the hands of Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were more grave and ominous than anything else we encountered throughout the millennia of pogroms, expulsions and persecution.


As the story progresses, we eventually find Esther, though unwanting, rising to power as the queen of the kingdom that essentially ruled the entire world. While we enjoyed our own sovereign monarchy for many centuries, the idea of a Jew sitting at the throne of a foreign power was certainly a foreign one. But desperate times called for desperate measures and this was necessary to put our salvation in motion.


The establishment of our nation state in Eretz Yisrael is certainly a hotly debated topic, even more than 70 years later. Like Esther's rise to the throne, it puts a Jewish state in a position of power which was never experienced throughout the many years of exile. But it can be (and has been) argued that this was a development born out of necessity, with millions upon millions of Jews having been defenselessly slaughtered by the nations that previously allowed us safe and tranquil refuge in their land. The "luxury" of self-determination became a tool for survival.


Just as it was Achashveirosh, the ruler of all nations, who put Esther on the throne, it was an act of an international body representing countries from all corners of the globe that made the State of Israel a reality. But in the megillah, we have Achashveirosh the man, who was very much an enemy of our people in many ways, alongside the concept of the king - hamelech. I do not know the exact source but there is a well-known idea that although HaShem's name does not appear at all in the megillah, the repetition of hamelech - which in some megillos finds itself at the top of every column - is, in truth, a metaphor for the true King who was really orchestrating all of the events from above. This was the case then and is surely the case now. In fact, it is always the case.


After finally escaping the clutches of Haman and all the death and destruction he had planned, we found ourselves on the cusp of the rebuilding of the bais hamikdash, which completed only a few short years later. We surely hope and pray that today, in our time, the rebuilding of the bais hamikdash is just around the corner, may it come speedily in our day.


Have a chag Purim samie'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Please check out all Megillah-related Dikdukian posts

Al Pi Cheshbon: 10,00 Kikars

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The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

One of the topics often discussed in relation to Purim is the theme of (Esther 9:27) "kiyemu vekiblu," B'nei Yisrael's voluntary re-acceptance of the Torah and its correlation to the more coerced acceptance on Har Sinai. In going through the Megillah one year, it occurred to me that the connection is really much broader than that. The entire story of Purim parallels the episode of Yetzias Mitzrayim in many striking ways.

  • In Parshas Beshalach, Amaleik attacks B'nei Yisroel as a result of a lapse in Torah as Chazal teach us with regards to the word "Refidim"(Shemos 17:8). So, too, we are taught that B'nei Yisroel reached a spiritual low when they partook in the Achashveirosh's feast. And instantly Amaleik was brought upon them..

  • The pesukim (Ibid 15:14-16) tell us that after the splitting of Yam Suf, all the nations of the world trembled and were petrified of B'nei Yisroel. A similar situation is found in the Megillah. "Many from among the people of the land converted to Judaism, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

  • Despite the fear of the nations following the splitting of Yam Suf, Amaleik still displayed utmost brazenness by attacking B'nei Yisroel. Here, despite widespread conversion out of utter fear, Amaleik still had the audacity to wage war with B'nei Yisroel. (Pasuk 9:17 implies that all the killings were out of self-defense.

  • The gathering at Har Sinai brought B'nei Yisroel to an absolute level of unity, as Rashi teaches us (Shemos 19:2) "Ke'ish echad, beleiv echad," like one man with one heart. When Esther realized the time of need, she commanded (4:16) "go and gather together all the Jews." This was not to be a physical gathering but rather a gathering of hearts. Esther knew that the only way to pull through this ordeal was if the Jews were unified as one.

  • Following the acceptance of the Torah on Har Sinai, B'nei Yisroel merited the awesome "Gilui Shechinah" of the Mishkon. So, too, following the "Kiyemu vekiblu" of Purim, the Jews merited the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.

The important lesson to take from these correlations would seem to be that in order to accomplish anything, the Jews need to be united. This is surely a great challenge for the Jewish community today. But we must strive to bring K'lal Yisroel together and may we merit the building of the third Beis HaMikdash speedily in our day.


Friday, March 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Shabbas Zachor

In the special haftarah that is read for Shabbas Zachor, Sha'ul wages war against Amaleik and, in contradiction of his specific instructions from Shemuel HaNavi, he has pity on the king, Agag, and lets him live. Additionally, he does not heed the command to kill all the animals belonging to the Amaleikim and brings back those that were fit for sacrifice. Shemuel does his best to remedy the situation by personally disposing of Agag. Before smiting him with the sword, Shmuel declares poetically (Shemuel I 15:33) "As your sword has rendered women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women."


This statement may be understood merely as poetic irony. However, R' Chaim Kanievsky understands it literally and points out that we see from this statement that Agag's mother was still alive. Wasn't he the only Amalekite left alive? Agag's mother must have been from another nation.  R' Chaim therefore concludes that a foreigner who marries an Amaleiki is not included in the commandment to wipe out Amaleik. However, in accordance with the guidelines of the gemara (Kiddushin 67) pertaining to the lineage of gentiles, her children are considered Amaleikim.


With this, R' Chaim explains another interesting twist in the story. According to the Ba'alei Tosafos on Parshas Beshalach, on that one night of captivity, Agag had relations with a donkey. This donkey was, in fact, a woman who made herself appear as a donkey through witchcraft. It was this propensity for witchcraft which demanded that even the animals had to be killed. This woman gave birth to a son from whom Haman descended. It is clear that this woman was among the Amaleikim. Why was she not killed? Only the animals fit for sacrifice – donkeys not included – were saved. Therefore, she must have been spared while still in the form of a human. Once again, the only justification for this could be that she was the wife of an Amaleiki who in fact hailed from another nation.

Have a good Shabbos.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Zachar Amaleik? What was he smoking?
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

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Friday, February 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Sisa

Moshe Rabbeinu, in his defence of B'nei Yisrael, pleads with HaShem (32:13) to "remember Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov to whom You vowed by Your Self..." Rashi explains Moshe's plea. "You did not swear to them by something that is perishable and impermanent, not by the heavens, not by the earth; not by the mountains and not by the hills, but by Your Self."


Rashi to Devarim 32:1 explains that when Moshe Rabbeinu gave B'nei Yisrael their final discourse, the song of Ha'azinu, he made the heavens and the earth the witnesses for he will ultimately pass from this world but the heavens and the earth are everlasting. With these two Rashis presented beside each other, the difficulty is rather obvious. Here the heavens and earth are considered to be passing entities with no lasting life and suddenly, in Devarim, they become eternal.


I found a simple, practical answer in the Silberman Chumash. In Devarim, the heavens and earth are being compared to Man. They are surely more everlasting than Man. However, here they are being compared to HaShem, who is surely far more everlasting than the heavens and the earth. (Another reader has pointed out that heaven and earth are chosen to serve as witnesses against Man. But here, their task would have been to hold HaShem accountable, for which they would be inadequate.)


Perhaps another way to resolve this discrepancy is that the heavens and earth may very well be eternal, everlasting entities from a practical perspective. However, what Moshe is saying here is that their very existence is at the whim of HaShem's will. Although in all likelihood they will never cease to be, they very well could if HaShem so desired. And that lends a special significance to the fact that HaShem swore by His very Self to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Kol Annnos
Dikdukian: Yeiaseh vs.Taaseh by Ephraim Stulberg
Dikdukian: Velo Shasu
Dikdukian: Minimizing Sin

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Friday, February 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

Yesterday, 2 Adar, was the 13th yahrtzeit of my Zadie, Rabbi Yaakov Bulka. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak, z"l.

A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my cousin Simcha Bella (née Seliger) and Yochanan Rose on their recent marriage in London which I had the pleasure of attending. Mazal tov to the extended Seliger, Rose and Jakobovits mishpachos and special mazal tov to Oma Jakobovits.


A number of years ago, I posed the following question and received back a number of nice suggestions which I would like to share.


At the beginning of the parsha (25:3-7) Moshe is told to collect numerous different materials for the purpose of building the mishkan. He is told to collect gold, silver, copper and various other materials without any indication as to what they will be used for. Then he is told to collect oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and the ketores and stones for the eifod and choshen. Why is the specific purpose listed for these materials but not for the others?

1.       The relative value of the metals and fabrics was known to be greater and thus their importance was easily understood. It was more difficult for the people to understand the importance of the oil and the spices. They therefore needed to be informed right away of the important tasks for which these items were needed. (This answer would not suffice for the stones, however.)

2.       This week's parsha deals at length with the construction of the mishkan using the wood, the metals, and the skins. The oil, spices and stones are not dealt with more thoroughly until the next parsha. Since their purpose isn't discussed until later, it is mentioned briefly at the outset.

3.       The other materials were more readily available to B'nei Yisrael. The oil, spices and stones took greater toil to seek out. As in answer 1, they needed to be informed of the special purpose they would serve in order to motivate them to find the materials and bring them in.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Amudei HeChatzeir
Dikdukian: Venahapoch hu

Dikdukian: Watch out for that kamatz

Dikdukian: Kikar Zahav

Dikdukian: The Lord and the Rings 

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

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, February 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

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

Among the many monetary laws governing interactions between a Jew and his neighbour, we are introduced to some guidelines regarding loans. The section begins, (22:24) "im kesef talveh es ami." Very simply read, if you are to lend money to My people. As Ohr HaChayim quotes, Rabbi Yishmael states in the midrash (Mechilta) that all instances of the word im are to be translated as "if" and imply that what follows is optional. Our pasuk, however, is the one exception as it is to be understood as when, not if. We are required to lend money to a fellow Jew in need. Ohr HaChayim questions why, if this is meant to be mandatory, is the word im even used?

Ohr HaChayim offers a fascinating explanation. When one observes individuals who have been blessed with tremendous wealth well beyond their own needs, he might be led to question why HaShem would run the world in this way. Why isn't everyone provided exactly what they need? After all, Yaakov beseeched of HaShem only (Bereishis 28:20) "bread to eat and clothes to wear." But some people to do not merit to receive all of their allotted needs directly from HaShem. Rather, these provisions have been redirected to others such that he will have to be sustained indirectly, by the hand of Man.

This pasuk therefore teaches: im kesef – if you find yourself with an abundance of cash, more than you need for yourself, you should use the extra to provide for others because that is why you have been provided with this excess in the first place. (Gramatically, the pesik, vertical line, between the words kesef and talveh lend extra support for this approach.)

I found this idea to particularly pertinent to another recent current event. Howard Schultz, the Jewish former-CEO of Starbucks, recently announced that he is seriously considering running for President in 2020. Almost exactly 17 years ago, he published an article for in which he details an encounter he had with R' Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l, the Mir Rosh Yeshivah. He told the following Holocaust story:

"As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, 'Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?'"

And Rabbi Finkel says, "It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others."

And with that, he stood up and said, "Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people."

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup

Dikdukian: Tricky Vowels

Dikdukian: Answer vs. Torture
Dikdukian: Give it to me
Dikdukian: Ha'isha viladeha

Dikdukian: Jewish Milk

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Friday, January 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

At the beginning of this week's parsha we are once again given the reason behind the naming of Gershom (18:3-4): "Ki ger hayisi b'eretz nochria", because I was a stranger in a strange land. Here the explanation of Eliezer's name is given as well, "Ki elokei avi b'ezri, vayatzileini micherev Paroah", apparently referring to Moshe's escape from execution at the hands of Paroah. At first glance, these names seem to be out of order. The cause for the naming of Gershom seems to have been preceded by that of Eliezer. Moshe was a stranger in Midyan after he escaped from the hands of Paroah. My Rebbe in Eretz Yisrael, R' Yeshaya Greenwald suggests that perhaps there is a different explanation behind Gershom's name. In the years leading up to Gershom's birth, Moshe realized that although he seemed at home in Egypt as a prince and leading quite a good life, he was nevertheless a stranger in a strange land. So Ki ger hayisi... is in fact referring to Moshe's years in Mitzrayim rather than those in Midyan. This explanation is supported by the fact that Moshe says "Ki ger hayisi," in the past tense, even while he is still living in Midyan (2:22).

Another interesting point concerning the naming of Gershom and Eliezer: For Gershom it says "vesheim ha'echad Gershom". And than for Eliezer, "vesheim ha'echad Eliezer". One would have expected the use of ordinal numbers such as "Sheim Harishon... vesheim hasheni" in this case. Why are they both referred to as "ha'echad"? R' Greenwald suggests that the answer may lie in the Midrash on the pasuk (2:21) "Vayoel Moshe," which states that Moshe made a pact with his father-in-law to give his first son to Avodah Zarah (or some manifestation thereof.) Therefore, Gershom was the "ben ha'echad," the one son for Avoda Zarah and Eliezer was the "ben ha'echad" laShem.

Perhaps the answer to the second question could be used to answer the first. Since Moshe had this pact with Yisro, he didn't want to mention any specific praise of HaShem which would convey to Yisro that he had not kept to the deal. Therefore, Gershom was given a more generic, religion-less name while Moshe waited until his second child to mention the praise of HaShem for saving him from Paroah's sword but it indeed did come first.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Many Who Fear God
Dikdukian: Letzais
Dikdukian: Ram veNisa by Eliyahu Levin

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