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Friday, December 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

When the brothers return home after their first confrontation with Yoseif, Yaakov refuses to let them bring Binyamin back down with them. Reuvein boldly declares (42:37) that both his sons shall be put to death if he does not bring Binyamin back. Despite this impressive expression of dedication, Yaakov refuses to let the brothers return with Binyamin. Later, as the famine grows stronger, the return to Egypt seems imminent. Yehudah proclaims (43:9) that he will take responsibility for Binyamin and that if he does not return him and stand him up in front of Yaakov, then he will have sinned to his father for all of days. Rashi comments that "all of days" refers to the world to come. Yehudah was declaring that if he fails to return Binyomin, his sin shall be everlasting. Yaakov subsequently sent the brothers back down with Binyomin.

 

From a practical point of view, the reason why Yaakov accepted Yehudah's proposal and not Reuvein's may simply be because time was just running out. Reuvein's offer was presented when the brothers had just returned and could survive without returning to Egypt for a while. Later on, however, there simply was no other alternative.

 

The Ohr HaChayim, however, offers a comparison of the sincerity of the two offers. Reuvein, in fact, had four sons. He only offered the sacrifice of two of them because he was not willing to lose all his children and be bereft of the mitzvah of procreation. He was willing to sacrifice possessions of this world but not his reward in the world to come. Yaakov sensed this slight insincerity in Reuvein's offer. Yehudah, however, was willing to sacrifice even his portion in the world to come, according to Rashi's interpretation. Yaakov, therefore, felt that Yehudah's acceptance of responsibility was sincere enough that he could trust with the life of his youngest son.

 

 

In the past, we have discussed different nuances of Chanukah as they pertain to the miracle of the war and the miracle of the oil. I would like to explore the actual significance of the two miracles. Specifically, why was it necessary to have these two miracles?

 

To begin, let us backtrack and approach the issue based on our understanding of our reactions to the miracles. At the end of Al HaNisim, we recount that the eight days of Chanukah were instituted lehodos ulhalel. There are two distinct purposes for Chanukah. Lehodos is simply understood as giving of thanks. As we have discussed in past years, the Al HaNisim text mentions nothing of the miracle of the oil. As R' Chaim Kanievsky explains, it was not a miracle of eternal significance as it pertains to our existence. We would still be standing here today with or without the miracle of the oil. Thus, we are not expected to give thanks for it. The same cannot be said about the great miracle of the defeat of the mighty Syrian Greeks by our tiny army. That is why the thanks is focused exclusively on that event. (I have heard a number of people, speaking about Chanukah, commenting that we "do not celebrate military victories." Based on the above, that approach seems questionable at best.)

 

Hallel is usually understood as praise. This is clearly different than thanks. Hallel, in our context, is expression of recognition of HaShem's greatness. Whereas the miracle of the war, as unbelievable as it was, was more discrete, the miracle of the oil was a blatant miracle. As we have mentioned in the name of P'nei Yehoshua, the miracle of the oil was not "necessary," per se. Nevertheless, it was a clear stamp of approval on the entire episode of Chanukah and, at the same time, a clear display of HaShem's greatness.

 

The two miracles of Chanukah represent the two aspects of HaShem's deliverance. Our commemoration of this holiday is meant to give thanks and to give praise - to thank HaShem for our defeat of the Greeks and to give praise and recognize His ultimate greatness.


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!


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, December 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

Earlier this month, in my haste, I skipped my usual dedication for the yahrtzeit of my rebbe, HaRav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, 3 Kisleiv. I will try to compensate with a shtikle on this week's parsha he would often say over.

 

In this week's parsha we have the infamous episode, amongst others, of Yoseif and the wife of Potifar. The gemara (Sotah 36b) explains that Yoseif in fact had a desire to give in to her initially, but in the end he was able to overcome and suppress. This assertion seems difficult at first glance. The pesukim make no reference of such a desire and clearly says (39:8) "Vayemaein Yoseif", and Yoseif refused. What then did Chazal see to suggest that Yoseif in fact had an urge? My Rebbe, R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, explains in the name of the Afikei Yehudah that the explanation lies in the meaning of the word vayemaein. It does not connote an absence of desire but rather a refusal of an apparent desire. The contrast between meiun, refusal, and total lack of desire is illustrated in a number of places in the Torah.

 

When B'nei Yisrael requested permission from Edom to pass through their land, the language of Edom's refusal is "vayemaein Edom," (Bemidbar 20:21). When they requested of Sichon permission to pass through his land the reply is described as "v'lo avah Sichon," (Devarim 2:30) and Sichon did not want. Sichon was completely willing to do this favour for B'nei Yisrael. Edom would not have inherently opposed their passage if not for the fact that they were afraid that they would wage war against them. But it seems that the favour itself Edom had no opposition to. (Perhaps this contrast is also seen in the fact that Sichon waged war immediately and Edom did not.) That's why their answer is called a refusal whereas Sichon didn't want.

 

When Bil'am is convinced by HaShem not to curse B'nei Yisrael, the messengers of Balak report, "mei'ein Bil'am" (Bemidbar 22:14). Surely Bil'am at this point still wanted to curse B'nei Yisrael but because of HaShem's command he could not. That is why the language of refusal is used.

 

The final example is the most revealing as it uses both terminologies in the same pasuk. In the parsha of yivum, the woman is required to come before beis din and recite a specific passage: (Devarim 25:7) "Mei'ein yevami l'hakim l'achiv shem b'Yisrael, lo avah yabemi." As far as the component dealing with being meikim shem, to allow the name of the deceased to endure, which is the essence of the mitzvah, the verb of refusal is used because deep down every one really wants to do a mitzvah. Nevertheless, for a certain reason he has refused (as explained in the famous passage of Rambam in Hilchos Gittin 2:20). The end of the pasuk reads "lo avah yabemi," he doesn't want to do yivum to me. This is to say, "It is me he doesn't want at all."

 

This, suggests the Afikei Yehuda, is what Chazal observed to understand the episode of Yoseif as they did. Vayemaein Yoseif implies not that Yoseif had no desire whatsoever, but that he had a desire and refused it.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

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, December 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew, Shlomo Yitzchok Shonek of Far Rockaway, who is celebrating his Bar Mitzvah this Shabbos.

 

When Yaakov learns that Eisav is coming to meet him with 400 men, he expresses great fear as stated (32:8) "vayira Yaakov me'od vayeitzer lo." There are various suggestions given as to the exact definition of the word vayeitzer. The predominant interpretation seems to be that it is from the same root as tzar, implying that Yaakov was stressed.

 

I suggest that perhaps this word is from the root of the word yeitzer which comes from the same root as tzurah, a form. While the body is the physical form of the human being, the yeitzer - both the yeitzer tov and the yeitzer hara - comprises spiritual form of the human being. Yaakov's yeitzer, his spiritual form, was one that directly opposed murder and violence, unlike his brother Eisav. Rashi writes that while vayira was indicative a fear that he himself may be killed, the connotation of vayeizter is that Yaakov was worried that he might be put in a position where he would have to kill others. In other words, Yaakov was troubled that he would be forced to act in a way that is antithetical to his yeitzer. Thus, vayeitzer can be interpreted to mean that his yeitzer was being bothered.



Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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


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 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

At the beginning of this week's parsha, Yaakov leaves his home to Charan where he would spend the next 20 years. In his famous dream, he sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Rashi (28:12) writes that the angels of Eretz Yisrael were leaving him because they could not leave Eretz Yisrael and the angels of chutz la'aretz took over.

 

At the end of the parsha (32:2) we find another changing of the guard as Yaakov prepares to return to Eretz Yisrael. However, he has not yet fully returned. He is clearly on the eastern side of the Yardein. How were the angels permitted to leave the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael to greet Yaakov as he returned?

 

Shaarei Aharon quotes an even stronger question from Panei'ach Raza. In next week's parsha, Yaakov sends angels (32:4 see Rashi) to Eisav. According to the Midrash, these angels were from the angels that he met at the end of this week's parsha. So these angels were sent to Sei'ir which is even further from Eretz Yisrael. Panei'ach Raza concludes that since Sei'ir was from the three nations – Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni – that were promised to Avraham, but reserved for the end of days, it was considered part of Eretz Yisrael and the angels were allowed to go there. Charan, of course, was not within any boundaries of Eretz Yisrael so the angels certainly could not have followed him there at the beginning of the parsha.

 

However, Sha'arei Aharon raises an issue with this answer from Panei'ach Raza. The gemara (Bava Basra 91a) discusses the unfortunate circumstances that befell Elimelech and his family (Megillas Rus.) It is clear from the gemara that their trials and tribulations were punishment for having left Eretz Yisrael to go to chutz la'aretz. However, they only went to Moav which would have been within the "safe zone" that Panei'ach Raza defined. Why then would they be punished?

 

Sha'arei Aharon suggests that the three nations promised to Avraham were not ultimately part of our original inheritance of the land only as a result of the sin of the spies. From Avraham until the generation of the midbar, those nations were considered part of Eretz Yisrael. Only afterward was it considered chutz la'aretz. Therefore, the angels in Yaakov's time were permitted to travel to those nations. Elimelech, however, was not.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: From his Sleep
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


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 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Toledos

My nephew, Yisroel Meir Shonek, who was celebrating his aufruf exactly five years ago, along with his wife Miriam welcomed a new baby girl into the family this week whom they named Tzirel Nechama, after my mother.

 

On a closely related note, our own (Tzirel) Nechama is celebrating her Bas Mitzvah this coming Sunday evening. Special Mazal Tovs to the Tzirel Nechamas and their families.

 

When Eisav comes back from the field, he is so wiped out that he is on the verge of death. He demands of Yaakov, who was cooking up a lentil soup, "Pour me some of that red stuff!" The pasuk continues to say that for this, he was called Edom (red). This name has endured as a reference to Eisav throughout the generations. Why would we designate an eternal name for Eisav based on this seemingly insignificant exchange? And why is the focus on the colour of the soup? It would seem more appropriate to refer to them as "hal'iteini-niks."

 

Daniel Scarowsky, z"l, explained that we are taught (Rashi 26:34) that Eisav is compared to a pig. A pig has split hooves but does not chew its cud. When it sleeps, it sleeps with its hooves stretched out as if to show the world, "look at me, I'm kosher" when, in fact, it is not. The pig symbolizes superficial and external obsessiveness, a misguided focus on outer appearance and neglect of the importance of inner essence. It is this very trait that is being illustrated here by Eisav. Even in this most desperate time, when he was in such dire need of sustenance, the lentil soup was nothing more to him than "red stuff." This exchange, therefore, is a significant indication of Eisav's character and thus, he was given the name Edom which would go on to be his national identity.


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 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Chayei Sarah

This past Shabbos, Baltimore lost one of its great leaders, Rabbi Mendel Freedman, who led Bais Yaakov of Baltimore for close to 40 years. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Menachem Mendel Don ben Aryeh Leib.

 

Today, the 21st of Chesvan, is the  yahrtzeit of my great uncle, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, z"l. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel be Yoel.

 

Rashi (24:10) comments that Avraham's camels were discernible for they would go out muzzled so as to prevent them from eating from fields that did not belong to him. Ramba"n (pasuk 32) asks on this based on the Midrash that refers to the donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair about which it is said that even the animals of tzadikim, HaShem does not bring about bad through them and the donkey would not even eat tevel. (Chullin 5b) If so, how could it be that Avraham had to be worried about his animals stealing to the point where he had to muzzle them? Should this same merit not have been present in the house of Avraham Avinu?

There are a number of answers given. R' Ovadia miBartenura answers that perhaps the donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair was different because it was the donkey he used personally for travel and there was a stronger bond, so to speak, between the donkey and him. But these camels were not camels that Avraham used but just camels that he owned and perhaps that is why they were not subject to this merit. But maybe Avraham's own personal donkey was.

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky, in Emes l'Yaakov, makes an interesting suggestion, based on one of the kinos from Tisha B'Av. It seems that this "miracle" of the animals avoiding issurim was connected to Eretz Yisrael. Maybe it was only in Eretz Yisrael that this happened. But in chutz la'Aretz, Charan for example, the animals would need to be muzzled. The difficulty I found with this offering, though, is that this seems to be based on Rashi and Ramban's argument being later on in pasuk 32. But Rashi says already on pasuk 10, when Eliezer first left, which was in Eretz Yisrael, that the camels went out muzzled. A reader has pointed out, though, that perhaps we can suggest the kedushah of Eretz Yisroel which is presumably the catalyst of this miracle, was not yet present to the same degree in the times of Avraham. 

Sha'arei Aharon offers a different approach. Tosafos in Chullin seem to make a distinction between food that is itself forbidden in its essence and food that is not by its nature forbidden, but is forbidden due to external circumstances. The example in Tosafos is eating before havdala where there is nothing wrong with the food itself but rather the time it is being eaten. Perhaps that is the difference here. The donkey of R' Pinchas ben Yair would not eat tevel. Tevel is universally forbidden in its essence. But the food that Avraham's camels would have eaten was not forbidden by nature, but only because it belonged to others.

Another suggestion made by the same reader as above is that the animals' special, observant behaviour is very much a miracle. In the story of R' Pinchas ben Yair's donkey, he was not aware that the food was tevel. Avraham, however, would not be permitted to rely on this miracle and assume that his camels would not eat other people's food. Additionally, Avraham constantly endeavoured to set an example to the people around him as to how a person should act. Even if he could rely on his camels to not steal from neighbouring fields, it was necessary for his camels to be muzzled to set an example to the masses.  

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, November 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeira


This week's shtikle, as per tradition for parshas Vayeria, is dedicated le'ilui nishmas my brother Efrayim Yechezkel ben avi mori Reuven Pinchas, whose yahrtzeit is this coming Tuesday, the 18th of Cheshvan.


A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece Kayla (née Levy) on her marriage this week to Yosef Marx of Passaic. Mazal Tov to the extended Levy, Bulka and Jakobovits mishpachos. In honour of the wedding and sheva berachos, the source of this week's shtikle is R' Shimon Schwab, zt"l, the chosson's great grandfather.

At the end of this week's parsha, Avraham faces the ultimate challenge of akeidas Yitzchak. It is certainly not unreasonable to consider this the greatest of Avrhaham's 10 tests on a number of different levels. It is certainly worth noting that this is the one time the Torah actually refers to the episode as a test, (22:1) "VehaElokim nisa." However, Rashi, based on a gemara (Sanhedrin 89b) cites a deeper meaning of the beseeching nature of HaShem's request which seems, at first glance, to border on hyperbole. HaShem uses the word "please" as if to say, "Please stand up to this test so that people do not say of the first tests that there was nothing to them." Suppose Avraham had difficulty with this command. Suppose he had questions about this daunting, impossible task. Would that really have detracted from the utter devotion he showed in the previous tests?


R' Schwab, in Ma'ayan Beish HaSho'eiva, explains that while the first 9 challenges were all great in their own right, there was one very important element missing – the involvement of his progeny. Passing these tests were of great significance on a personal level for Avraham. But that, on its own, would not be enough to pass on to the great nation of which Avraham was to be the father. We often speak of Avraham as having instilled the will and the strength of self-sacrifice in all future generations. But this is not accomplished simply through genetics. Akeidas Yitzchak was a trial of sacrifice that Avraham and Yitzchak would experience together as father and son. Only through enduring this test and persevering together could this virtue be passed on. Indeed, if Avraham were to have failed this test in any way, his previous accomplishments would be of much lesser value to the generations that followed. This explains the urgency of HaShem's request.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Mysterious Midrash by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: I Can't Believe it's not Fresh 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