The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, September 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Sukkos

[Sent from the sukkah]


The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

I couldn't ignore the irony when going through my Sukkos archives. The following Shtikle was first written in 2005 following tragic events of Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in Japan. I re-sent it once again 8 years later in 2013 after a year which began with Hurricane Sandy and ended with devastating floods in Colorado. Yet another 8 years on, after Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on the East Coast, I felt it was once again most appropriate.

 

The mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:2) states that the world is judged on four matters at four different times of the year. On Pesach, we are judged on the grain crops. On Shavuos, we are judged on the fruit. On Rosh HaShanah, the whole world is judged as individuals. On Sukkos, we are judged on water.

 

P'nei Yehoshua raises an interesting question, based on a pasuk in parshas Eikev. Towards the end of the parsha, we are told (Devarim 11:10-12) that Eretz Yisrael is not like Mitzrayim where rain rarely falls and you need to bring the water from the river yourself. Rather, it is a land of mountains and valleys and is fed by rain water. The next pasuk asserts that it "The eyes of HaShem, your God, or on it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year." The pasuk uses the word shanah to refer to year and offers no further explanation as to the definition thereof. Whenever we refer to a year without defining it, states P'nei Yehoshua, it refers to the calendar year which begins on Rosh HaShanah. This pasuk therefore implies that the beginning of the "rain year" is in fact Rosh HaShanah. How then can it be that the year for rain begins on Sukkos as is stated in the mishnah?

 

A careful reading of the mishnah yields an interesting linguistic nuance. The introduction states that at four times the world is judged. On Pesach for crops, Shavuos for fruit, Rosh HaShanah we all pass in front of Him like sheep in a flock and on the chag we are judged on water. The word nidonim, judged, is repeated with respect to Sukkos. I have long wondered why this was and had resigned myself to accepting that there is nothing much to be made of it. However, it is well-known that although the judgement is sealed on Yom Kippur, the judgement still extends in some way until Hoshana Rabba. Perhaps we may understand that the mishnah's insertion of the word nidonim is meant to connect the judgement of Sukkos back to that of Rosh HaShanah. The world passes in front of HaShem in judgement and is subsequently judged on matters of water. Sukkos is not merely one of the four listed in the mishnah but is in fact connected directly to Rosh HaShanah.

 

This would answer P'nei Yehoshua's difficulty as well. Indeed, the judgement on rain begins, in some way, on Rosh HaShanah but extends all the way until Sukkos. There is no discrepancy between the mishnah and the pasuk.

 

Ra"n is bothered by a different aspect of the mishnah. One would assume that the judgement on Rosh HaShanah is complete, in that we are judged and inscribed in "the book" regarding all aspects, including water, fruit and grain. What then is the meaning of the other judgments at other times of the year? He answers that the world is judged at large on the other times of the year. The worldwide allotment of rain, fruit and grain are decreed at their respective times. One's own individual portion of that allotment is what is decreed on Rosh HaShanah.

 

It is common, in order to evoke a true feeling for the gravity of the judgement on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, to reflect on the tragedies of the year gone by. But how often is this done on Sukkos? It should be noted that the term chag in the mishnah clearly refers to all of Sukkos and not Shemini Atzeres when we pray for rain. It should also be noted that the mishnah does not state that we are judged on geshem, rain, but rather it is water which is the subject of the judgement on Sukkos. Keeping that and the Ra"n's understanding in mind, it is quite likely that water-related tragedies, are in fact decreed on Sukkos. Whether or not we were directly affected by these tragedies, this is certainly something to keep in mind as we focus and direct our tefillos on this Yom Tov.

Have a chag samie'ach and good Shabbos!

Eliezer Bulka

WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Harachaman hu yakim...

Al Pi Cheshbon: How many bakashos in Ya'aleh v'Yavo

Al Pi Cheshbon: The Search for Worthy ... Humans (Koheles)

 

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Friday, September 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Ha'azinu

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

The poetry that makes up most of this week's parsha begins with a call to the heavens and the earth to bear witness to the words of Moshe to follow. Immediately thereafter, Moshe proclaims, (32:2) "ya'arof kamatar likchi, tizal katal imrasi, kis'irim alei deshe, vechirvivim alei eisev." In short, this pasuk compares his words to the rain, the dew, and the wind. I wish to focus only on the last half of the pasuk. Rashi explains se'irim to be winds and revivim as rain drops. He further explains that deshe refers to a general covering of grass while the word eisev refers to individual blades.

It would seem to follow from Rashi that the pairing of se'irim with deshe and revivim with eisev is quite logical. Wind is a phenomenon consisting of a single unit and cannot be broken down into smaller parts as there are no "pieces" or "drops" of wind. Thus, it is applied to deshe which refers to the general covering of grass, viewed as a single unit as well. The revivim, which are individual raindrops, are applied to the eisev, the individual blades of grass.

I believe there is a symbolism behind these two metaphors. Rashi explains that just as the winds strengthen the grass, so too, the words of the Torah strengthen those who learn them and help them grow. This pasuk is conveying to us the nurturing powers of Torah. Therefore, we may explain that the pasuk is teaching us the far-reaching benefits of Torah for K'lal Yisrael on a collective level, as symbolized by se'irim and deshe, as well as the sustenance it provides for each and every one of us on an individual level, as symbolized by the revivim and eisev.

Eliezer Bulka

WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

 

Weekly Shtikle Blog Roundup:

Dikdukian: HAL

Daily Leaf:

.י"ד Word Play

:ט"ז Forgot Again


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Friday, September 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Rosh HaShanah

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

One of the themes of this week's parsha is that of teshuvah, repentance, a perfect preparation for the days ahead. After the pesukim dealing with the harsh punishments of the man, woman, family or tribe who "goes his own way," we are told of all the good that is bestowed upon us when we return to HaShem.

 

Perek 30 begins, "And it shall be when these things come upon you, the blessings and the curses which I have put before you...And you shall return to HaShem, your God." It is common, especially at this time, to look back and reflect on recent tragedies - those that affect us personally or as a nation more directly, such as the passing of a loved one or the trials and tribulations endured by our brethren in Eretz Yisrael, and those that might seem to affect us less directly, such as various world events - and try to understand it as HaShem's call for us to do teshuvah. I confidently speak on my own behalf and on behalf of everyone else when I say that we have certainly had a fair share of these difficult times over the course of the past year. It is certainly not uncommon for such events to be invoked in a Rosh HaShanah or Shabbas Shuva drasha.

 

I am not coming to discount this practice. However, there is a small yet important nuance in the above passage that might easily be overlooked in this process. It is not merely the curses - the tragedies and misfortunes - that are meant to be catalysts to our repentance. The berachah, the blessings and the good fortune are meant to serve the same purpose. It is simply insufficient to look back at the tough times that befell us, either personally or nationally, and declare "God was telling us something." We must also reflect upon the wonderful blessings we have enjoyed, for He was telling us something then too. Appreciating the love and the Divine Providence with which our lives are governed, can and should lead us to teshuvah just the same. Many might find this idea significantly more difficult this year than in others. Nevertheless, it behooves us to rise to this challenge.

 

Have a good Shabbos and a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Name of the parsha

Daily Leaf:ביצה - What is your name?

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Friday, August 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

This week's parsha begins with the process of the bringing of bikurim, the first fruits, and the passages that are to be recited at the time that they are brought. We are instructed (26:3) "And you shall come to the kohein in those days and you shall say to him: 'I have said today to HaShem your God that I have come to the land that HaShem has sworn to our fathers to give to us.'" Rashi, on the words ve'amarta eilav, and you shall say to him, comments "[to show] that you are not ungrateful." This implies that the very purpose of the recitation is to show that he is not ungrateful. My father, a"h, points out, however, that the very essence of bikurim is an expression of thanks to HaShem. We go out of our way to show that we appreciate that everything comes from HaShem by bringing our first fruits to Yerushalayim. Why would anyone think us ungrateful that we should have to recite this passage to refute that perception? Furthermore, it is strange that Rashi would make this comment on the words ve'amarta eilav, rather than on the actual words that are recited, where the gratitude is actually expressed.

 

My father's answer is based on a remarkable interpretation of bikurim from Netziv in Ha'amek Davar. He is bothered by the words "HaShem Elokecha," as opposed to "HaShem Elokeinu." Why are we referring to HaShem as the God of the kohein rather than our God. He answers that the purpose of the bikurim process going through the kohein is so that we may show gratitude to the righteous kohanim, that in their merit and through the Providence bestowed upon them by HaShem, that we are worthy of entering Eretz Yisrael. That is why we direct the opening passage towards the kohein.

 

Rashi, as well, is not suggesting that we are showing that we are not ungrateful to HaShem. Our actions are indicative enough in that regard. Rather, we are going out of our way to show that we are not ungrateful to the kohein for his spiritual influence on the nation and the merit that he brings to the nation as a whole. And that is why Rashi is explaining the words ve'amarta eilav. He is explaining why we are talking to the kohein. The kohein is more than just a middle man in the bikurim process. He is an essential figure. Rashi points out on the words (26:3) asher yihyeh bayamim haheim, that you have only the kohein of your day and your generation. It is not our task to delve into the level of righteousness of one particular kohein or another. By virtue of the service he performs for our nation, he is deserved of this gift.

 

Of course, much has been said over the last number of months about my father's dedication to kindness. However, there are two sides to every kindness. As much as my father, a"h, went out of his way to impress upon the masses the importance of performing acts of kindness, he also would put a lot of focus on the importance of recognizing kindness and showing gratitude. The recognition of the good that one does for you is a necessary step to express thanks. We are told at the end of this passage (26:11), "vesamachta bechol hatov," and you shall rejoice in all the good. This can be seen as a promise but also as a command. We need to go out of our way to recognize the good and rejoice and only then are we in a position to properly show gratitude.

 

An interesting story happened to me just yesterday that illustrates this. A couple of meshulachim showed up at my door. I schmoozed with them and after giving them a cold drink and a modest donation, as they were walking away, one of them said "thank you, and thank you for your smile." It's all about recognizing every little thing.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Balancing the Shevatim at Har Gerizim and Har Eival
Dikdukian: Tough Day at the Office


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Friday, August 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

In this week's parsha we are warned (24:17) not to pervert justice for the stranger or orphan and not to take a garment as collateral from a widow. Following that, we are again instructed to leave behind the stalks that are forgotten during the harvest and to leave olives and grapes behind for the stranger, the orphan and the widow. Both are followed by a reminder that we were slaves in Mitzrayim and that is why HaShem has commanded us such. However, in the first instance we are not only reminded that we were slaves. We are also reminded that HaShem took us out from Mitzrayim whereas there is no such mention in the second instance.

 

There is a fundamental difference between the first set of commandments and the second. The second set concerns an indirect relationship with the stranger, orphan or widow. You are to leave these stalks, olives or grapes behind so that they may come and gather them. You are not instructed to give them these gifts directly but rather, to leave them so that they may pick them up on their own at a time of their choosing. The first set, however, focuses on direct dealings with these individuals. In these cases, we are commanded to remember not only our slavery in Mitzrayim but also the compassion with which HaShem brought us out. We are required to exhibit this Godly attribute and show similar compassion in our dealings with them. In the second set of laws, where we are not given the opportunity to meet the beneficiaries of our charity, we are expected only to put ourselves in their position by remembering our poor state in Mitzrayim, thus impressing upon us how much this gift is appreciated by them.

 

There is perhaps an even more intriguing nuance in these commandments. Following both groups of commandments, we are told, "that is why I command you to do this." In both instances HaShem is seemingly referring to more than one commandment. Therefore, it would appear more appropriate to refer to hadevarim haeileh, these things. Furthermore, each of the commandments is a prohibitive one, instructing us what not to do. It would therefore have been more appropriate to say, "that is why I command you not to do these things." Rather, each and every one of these commandments focuses on one central theme - showing care and empathy towards those less fortunate than us. It is easy to get caught up in the fine details of these individual mitzvos. But with this pasuk, HaShem is telling us that there is one goal behind it all and this is what HaShem wants from us. The various mitzvos are the avenues prescribed to express this. But what HaShem is really demanding of us is the careful kindness and compassion that lie behind these practices.

 

It is certainly not difficult to find a connection between this theme and the life that my father, a"h, lived. While he may not have had the opportunity to perform leket, shichchah or pei'ah, he was a veritable expert in the theme these mitzvos encapsulate and had the creativity to always be mindful of different ways in which he could perform HaShem's will in this regard, as well as inspiring others to do the same.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Weekly Shtikle: Mitzvas Zechiras Amaleik this week?

Shiluach HaKein Game

Dikdukian: Shiluah Ha...

Dikdukian: Shva vs Kamatz by R' Ari Storch

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

 

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Friday, August 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

This week, we sent off our oldest son, Efrayim, to learn in Eretz Yisrael. I thought it would be apropos to include an insightful observation from him from 8 years ago.

 

In a book of meshalim on the parsha, it is told that a group of maskilim once produced a satirical play about a Jewish army that was led to war according to the guidelines spelled out in this week's parsha (20:5-8). The officer first announced that anyone who recently built a new house should return, upon which a thousand men got up and left the battlefield. The same occurred after the following announcements regarding having planted a vineyard or having recently betrothed a future wife. In the end, only the Vilna Gaon and the Sha'agas Aryeh remained.

 

The Brisker Rav, upon hearing of this production, commented that it was completely accurate, only that they left out the most important part - that they still win the war!

 

Efrayim took issue with the way the process was related in the play, based on the mishnah (Sotah 8:5) quoted by Rashi. There is a dispute over the term yarei verach haleivav. Rabbi Akiva asserts that it is understood literally as someone who is fearful of combat. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili, however, maintains that it refers to someone who is fearful based on his transgressions that he will not merit to survive the war. He goes on to explain that this is the actual reason the Torah included the other exceptions, to save the fearful one from embarrassment as no one will know exactly why he is leaving the battlefield. Efrayim objected that in order for this arrangement to work, it would be futile to dismiss each group after each announcement. Clearly, they must have made all four declarations at once at which point all those subject to exemptions would leave together, thus concealing those who left because of their sins.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Two of a Kind

DikdukianNot necessarily a dumb correction


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Friday, August 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

 

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

 

Five months ago, as we approached the month of Nissan, we would have read the haftarah of machar chodesh. However, since it was shabbas parshas hachodesh, that special haftarah was deferred. Now, once again, (at least according to most traditions) this special haftarah is pushed aside so as not to interrupt our momentum in the seven haftaros of nechamah. Our next opportunity this coming Teves will also be thwarted by Chanukah and the simple fact that Shabbos is also Rosh Chodesh. So we will end up going a full year-and-a-half without reading machar chodesh.

The pasuk in this week's overriding haftara, (Yeshaya 55:1) demands, "Hoy kol tzame l'chu lamayim," all who are thirsty, go to (drink) water. The gemara (Taanis 7a) explains that water is a metaphor for Torah. All who are thirsty shall go and learn Torah. Why is Torah compared to water? There is an approach I have heard from a number of different sources and found in R' Chaim Kanievsky's Ta'ama D'kra. We are taught (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 204:7) that there is a distinct difference between water and all other food and drink. All other food and drink require a berachah regardless, because under all circumstances, one derives a certain amount of pleasure from the food or drink. Water is different. One only makes a berachah on water if they are drinking it because they are thirsty. If they are drinking it because they are choking on a piece of food, for example, a berachah is not required because no pleasure is derived from it. Similarly, the only way to really fulfill oneself with Torah, is if you are thirsty for it. One who learns Torah without a genuine thirst for it, will simply not get out of it what he should.

R' Elie Wolf applies this idea to explain the famous gemara (Bava Metzia 85b) which comments that one of the sins which led to the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash was that "They did not make a berachah on the Torah first." Many commentaries are bothered how it is possible that they did not recite Birkas HaTorah. There are various explanations given. With the above idea we may understand that they did not learn Torah out of thirst and thus, did not learn it in a manner that would require a berachah in the way that a berachah is required for water.

Have a good Shabbos.


Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Don't Feed the Animals

Dikdukian: Jewish Milk

 

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, www.weeklyshtikle.com

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