The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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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 

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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

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Friday, January 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Kayla (née Levy) and Yosef Marx of Eretz Yisrael on the birth of their daughter, Tzirel Nechama, earlier this week. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Levy and Marx mishpachos and to the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.


As the Egyptians realized they were doomed when their chariots began to collapse in the middle of Yam Suf, they proclaimed (14:25) "Let us flee from the Israelites for HaShem is fighting for them in Egypt!" At least, this is the simple literal understanding of what they said. But the last phrase is very puzzling. They were not in Egypt. HaShem wasn't fighting their battle in Egypt. Rashi starts by interpreting the word beMitzrayim as really meaning baMitzriyim, not in Egypt but with the Egyptians. That solves the problem rather simply.


He then brings another, less direct approach from the Mechilta. Just as those who in the sea were being smitten, so too those who remained in Egypt were being simultaneously smitten.


However, Targum Onkelos offers a novel interpretation of this pasuk. He writes that the Egyptians were declaring that this was the same Strong Hand of God that fought B'nei Yisrael's battles in Egypt. A polytheistic belief system, such as that to which the Egyptians subscribed, is forced to attribute boundaries to their deities by some sort of criteria such as location, time or specific strength. As much as the Egyptians recognized HaShem's Hand in the meting out of the ten plagues, they still did not appreciate our monotheistic beliefs. It would seem from this pasuk that they believed that HaShem's powers were somehow confined to Egypt. They chased B'nei Yisrael with the belief that His Mighty Hand would not reach them outside of those boundaries. When they witnessed the miraculous collapse of their chariots, they finally began to realize their error. They recognized that the God who brought their nation to its knees on its home turf knows no boundaries and was now bringing them to their ultimate demise.


(On further consideration, I'm not sure I have accurately understood the tense of the targum. But I believe the idea is valid independently, as well.)

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Happy 12th Birthday, Dikdukian!
Dikdukian: Exceptions Ahoy
Dikdukian: Midash, HaShem...
Dikdukian: Leave us Alone
Al Pi Cheshbon: Chamushim
AstroTorah: The Gemara's Aliens? by R' Ari Storch

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Friday, January 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Bo

I recently had an observation regarding the current political battle raging in the United States and how it relates to events in these parshios. Without getting too deep in the political weeds, one way to understand the dispute is a disagreement as to whether or not certain individuals are desired as residents of this country. Shall we build a wall to keep out all but those who wish to enter through fully legal means? Or is it proper to let anyone in who wants to enter? Every nation needs to devote significant thought to the issue of whom they want to let in and at times, even consider those who are already there and whether they should remain.

There were certainly many facets to the subjugation in Mitzrayim and the subsequent redemption. This national issue was very much part of the story line. At the very beginning of Shemos, we learn about Paroah's convention to decide what to do about their "Jewish problem." One must assume that expulsion was an option that was on the table. Other nations throughout history have certainly had no qualms about that course of action. Ultimately, of course, it was decided that best strategy was to keep, contain and subjugate them.

As the mission towards deliverance begins, the dialogue consists primarily of Moshe trying to convince Paroah to let B'nei Yisrael leave for B'nei Yisrael's sake, not the sake of Paroah or Mitzrayim. However, after the attrition of the initial seven plagues, at the beginning of this week's parsha, we begin to see a shift. After Paroah stubbornly ignores Moshe's warning about the locusts, his closest courtiers have had enough and insist (10:7) that he let them go. We all know how that turned out.

Later, in the preamble to the ultimate plague of makas bechoros, Moshe foretells (11:8) that these servants would give up on convincing their ruler and come to Moshe on their own and beg him to leave. Sure enough, as the events played out, Paroah himself came to Moshe and Aharon and the entire nation eventually came to the realization that under no circumstances could the nation sustain B'nei Yisrael remaining in their midst. Finally, we were given the one expulsion in our history that we were actually longing for.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Talented Locusts
AstroTorah: Korban Pesach in the Sky by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The Death Star (Ra'ah) the classic by R' Ari Storch

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Friday, January 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eira

BOOK PLUG: Although we do have an extra month this year, Pesach is still fast approaching. These parshiyos are the perfect time to get in the mood and start thinking about the haggadah. My good friend, noted author Mordechai Bodek has come up with yet another unique masterpiece, surely the first of its kind – The Emoji Haggadah. Please check it out:

At the beginning of the plague of frogs, as Aharon raised is hand over the waters of Egypt, the pasuk states (8:2) "vata'al hatzefardeia," the frog rose up. Although throughout the episode, the frogs are always referred to in plural, here it is in the singular form. There is a discussion in the gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) as to what to make of this anomaly. R' Akiva said there was one frog which filled the whole land (seemingly by giving birth to the other frogs). R' Elazer ben Azaria took offense, exclaiming, "Akiva, why do you bother to delve in aggada? Cease and return to the study of negaim and ohalos. There was one frog and it whistled to all its friends to join and they came."

Chasam Sofer is bothered by the tone of R' Elazar ben Azaria's remarks. There is certainly nothing in the pasuk itself that is in opposition to R' Akiva's interpretation. Why is he so turned off by his suggestion?

The gemara (Pesachim 53b) discusses the great miracle of Chananiah, Mishael and Azaria who were forced by Nevuchadnezzar to walk through a fiery furnace and came out alive. Todos ish Romi taught, "What led Cananiah Mishael and Azaria to walk through the fiery furnace (rather than bow down to an idol)? They reasoned that the frogs who are not obligated to sanctify God's name nevertheless jumped into the ovens of the Egyptians as part of the plague of frogs (7:28). Certainly, we who are obligated to sanctify God's name must surely make that sacrifice.

Chasam Sofer explains that if one frog gave birth to many, as R' Akiva suggested, than all those frogs were created solely for the purpose of this plague. If so, Chananiah Mishael and Azaria would have no basis for their reasoning. They, who have a purpose, could not derive from the frogs who had no other purpose but to jump into the ovens. Therefore, R' Elazar ben Azaria is vehemently opposed to R' Akiva's interpretation and explains that surely, these frogs who participated in the plague were in existence before the plague.

Interestingly, in coming up with the title for this shtikle on another occasion and choosing "Kamikaze Frogs," I actually discovered that the word Kamikaze is Japanese for "Divine Wind," which makes it even more appropriate than I had first thought.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Va'eira by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Leshon Yachid veRabbim by Eliayhu Levin

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