The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, February 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

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

 

In this week's parsha, as part of the description of the construction of the mishkan, the beams are described (36:29) as being paired at the bottom as well as the top. The terminlogoy used  (26:24) is, "and they shall be soamim on the bottom and together they shall be samim on top." The words toamim and tamim mean essentially the same thing. They are to be paired. As Rashi describes, the beams had to be flush with each other from the bottom to the top and were joined together with a ring on top. Why is a different word used for the bottom and the top?

 
When Rivkah gives birth to Yaakov and Eisav, the pasuk (
Bereishis 25:24) states "behold there were somim in her womb." Rashi notes that here the word tomim, which is missing an aleph, is used whereas when Tamar gives birth to Peretz and Zerach (Bereishis 38:27) the word te'omim (with an aleph) is used. The reason given is that Tamar's two children would both grow up to be righteous men whereas one of Rivkah's children would grow up to be an evil man. The word te'omim written in full denotes a greater similarity between the twins. When it is written missing an aleph, it denotes twins which are not so identical.

 
If one were to survey the beams of the mishkan on the bottom and the pegs that held them in place they would see a relatively uniform pattern as they went around. However, they might notice a slight change when they observe the tops of the beams. The rings that held the beams together on top rested in an indentation made in each beam. Joining the corner beams was a little more difficult. Rashi (26:24) describes the process which ultimately required the indentation to be in a different spot in that beam. The picture books on the mishan make this more clear. 
Here is an example. Perhaps this is why the word tamim is used to describe the pairing of the beams on top. The pairing did not appear uniform throughout. But for the pegs that held the beams in place on the bottom, the word toamim is used to denote their uniform appearance.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Amudei HeChatzeir
Dikdukian: Venahapoch hu
Dikdukian: Kikar Zahav


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Friday, February 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

This coming Tuesday, 28 Shevat, marks the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, R' Yitzchak Yeres, for whom our baby boy is named. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yitzchak Chaim ben Moshe Yosef.

Among the plethora of commandments in this week's parsha (53 to be exact), we are told (23:13) "You shall not mention the names of other gods, they shall not be heard on your mouth." This prohibition is expounded upon in the gemara (Sanhedrin 63b). It is forbidden to say to someone "wait for me beside such-and-such idol." The only exception to this prohibition, as explained in the gemara, is an avodah zarah that is mentioned in Tanach. Therefore, there is no prohibition against saying the name "Ba'al Pe'or," for example.

Hagahos Maimonios (to Rambam Hilchos Avodah Zarah 5:3) writes that this prohibition is also limited to a name used to honour the avodah zarah. But a common name of something or someone which was made into an avodah zarah is not subject to this prohibition. Thus, if a group of people started worshipping some guy named Joe, there would be no prohibition to refer to Joe. This nuance may be relevant to the possible prohibition against reciting the name of the one that most of the Modern World considers, mistakenly, to be the messiah. Hagahos Maimonios actually derives his ruling from the fact that the gemara freely refers to Yeshu. The common English name beginning with a J is possibly an Anglicized version thereof. However, some believe it to be an anglicized version of the word yeshuah, salvation, for obvious misguided reasons. Nevertheless, if this is a name used to refer to the person, it is possible that it would not fall under this category. The two-word name that is used to refer to him, JC, however, is certainly prohibited for the second word means messiah and this is certainly a name used in his honour.

What bothered me, however, is that it seems that many people, based on the aforementioned gemara, specifically abstain from using a church as landmark when giving directions. At first glance, this might seem to be the case discussed in the gemara. However, a more careful analysis of the gemara, and the pesukim involved, show that the prohibition is to say the actual name of an avodah zarah. The word "church," on its own, is not the name of an avodah zarah and the prohibition should not apply to this word. I heard, however, that Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, concurred with this very point but added that it seems that Jews have customarily accepted upon themselves to be extra stringent in this matter and that is why they are careful to avoid using a church as a landmark.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com


Friday, February 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

In this week's parsha, Yisro advises Moshe that he could not possibly handle the entire nation's legal issues on his own. Rather, he should "discern from among the entire people, anshei chayil, God-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money..."(18:21) However, when Moshe actually goes about choosing the men to take care of the lower-level cases, he chooses anshei chayil from among all Israel (18:25) The obvious question is, what happened to all those other traits that Yisro advised him to seek out?

 

When translating the pasuk above, I specifically left anshei chayil untranslated. There are varying opinions on the actual meaning of this term and they govern the various approaches to this question. First is the somewhat disheartening opinions of Rashi, Chizkuni and Siforno. Rashi in Devarim (1:15) writes that Yisro instructed Moshe to seek out seven traits and he was only able to find three. Chizkuni interprets anshei chayil as wealthy men. Of the traits recommended by Yisro, only the trait of wealth was one that could be recognized by one's peers. The other three were "traits of the heart" which one could not discern on the surface and therefore, Moshe was only able to be choosy about the anshei chayil. Siforno writes that Moshe could not find men who possessed all the characteristics recommended by Yisro. Therefore, he decided that the most important one was anshei chayil, well versed, deep, sharp men who are determined to get to the bottom of things and willing to fight for the truth. He reasoned that a God-fearing individual who does not possess this attribute is of inferior quality to a less God-fearing individual who does.

 

Ramban and Malbim offer more optimistic views. On pasuk 21, Ramban writes, and Malbim likewise, that anshei chayil simply means men who are fit to lead a large nation, for the word chayil is used to refer to large assembly. The term anshei chayil was used as a general term. The next three attributes were only a description of the three components of anshei chayil. Since anshei chayil was the general and the others the specific, pasuk 25 only refers to the general and we understand from that that all the necessary characteristics were included.

 

Netziv in Ha'amek Davar makes a very astute observation. Yisro's original suggestion was to find these traits among people from kol ha'am, the entire nation. The term, explains Netziv, refers to the masses and includes all. He was worried that because of the sheer number of judges that were necessary, Moshe wouldn't be able to choose only from the upper echelon of Torah scholars. So if he were considering everyone, he would have to be more discerning in who was chosen. However, the pasuk recounts that Moshe indeed chose all the men from B'nei Yisrael, a term that refers to the Torah scholars. Therefore, he could take for granted that these great men would be God-fearing men of truth who despise money for this is the way of the Torah. However, the trait of anshei chayil, which Netziv interprets as leaders who can guide the nation (like Ramban) is not necessarily found in all. Therefore, among the scholars, it was only this trait that he had to seek out but the rest were assumed.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com


Friday, January 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

Mazal Tov to my niece and nephew, Rochel Leah and Yehoshua Greenwald, on the birth of their daughter, Tzirel Nechama. Mazal Tov to the Greenwalds, Shoneks and Bulkas and the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.

Mazal Tov as well to the Davidi family on the engagement of their son Dovid to Shifra Aharanoff of Queens and on the birth of a granddaughter, Yocheved, to Yosef & Shira Shliachtzibur. Mazal Tov to the Davidis and the Perlmans and, once again, Oma Jakobovits.

 

The second to last of the many episodes that make up this week's parsha is the confrontation at Masah uMerivah. The double name seems somewhat anomalous. Indeed, the pasuk (17:7) does explain that there were two were aspects to this episode but more explanation is needed to understand the nature of the two.

 

B'nei Yisrael quarreled with Moshe saying (17:3), "Give us water so that we may drink!" Moshe counters "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test HaShem?" Ibn Ezra explains that there were two distinct groups involved in this episode. The first group were truly in need of water and this led to their altercation with Moshe. However, there was another group that still had water which they brought from Alush (their previous stop as per Bemidbar 33:14). They wanted to challenge HaShem to see if He would provide water. To the first group, which had at least some semblance of a legitimate complaint, Moshe answered "Why do you quarrel with me?" To the second, he charged, "Why do you test HaShem?"

 

The site is therefore aptly named Masah uMerivah after the two separate aspects of the confrontation. However, notes Ibn Ezra, the second group surely angered HaShem more than the first. Thus, in Sefer Devarim (6:17) we are warned "Do not challenge HaShem as you did at Masah." Merivah is not mentioned.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Happy 11th 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

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, January 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Bo

There is much discussion regarding the exact methodology and pattern behind the ten plagues - what the plagues represented individually and as a whole and why they were in their specific order. I would like to focus on a specific subset of the ten plagues. In four out of the ten plagues, Egypt was invaded by animals. This animal invasion seems to have a theme of its own. Rashi (Bereishis 1:26) writes that man was created to rule over the fish, the birds and the animals. However, if man is not worthy, he will become subservient to the animals. This four-pronged attack from the animal kingdom served to prove that the Egyptians had reached that level of unworthiness and they needed to be shown that they were no longer in charge.

 

The first animal invasion was that of frogs. Although the frogs invaded the land, there is very specific mention of their emergence from the water and their subsequent return to the water after the plague was over. The Nile, which the Egyptians worshipped as a deity of sorts, was completely out of their control.

 

The invasion of lice came from the ground beneath the feet of the people. The attack of the wild beasts symbolized the Egyptians' defeat above ground as well as being invaded from the outside. Finally, the locusts represented the animal kingdom's establishing aerial supremacy, as it were, over Egypt. The four animal infiltrations together symbolized Egypt's loss of power and ultimate subservience to the animals in all physical realms of our world.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Talented Locusts

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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com

Friday, January 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eira

In order to give Paroah a warning for the plague of blood, (7:15) Moshe is told to meet Paroah at the Nile and hamateh asher nehpach lenachash tikach beyadecha, the staff that was turned into a snake you shall take in your hand. This command begs the question, whose staff is it anyway? A staff was turned into a snake twice, once in front of B'nei Yisrael and once in front of Paroah. It would seem that in front of B'nei Yisrael, Moshe used his own staff, just as it was clearly used in the demonstration in front of the burning bush. From pasuk 9, it appears that the staff used in front of Paroah was Aharon's. Which one, then, is being referred to in this pasuk?

Klei Yekar on pasuk 9 points out that Moshe's staff turned into a nachash while Aharon's turned into a tanin. He then goes on to explain the difference between the two. Since our pasuk reads hamateh asher nehepach lenachash and not hamateh asher nehepach lesanin, it would seem that the staff being referred to is Moshe's. Ibn Ezra, however, holds that even the staff that was used in front of Paroah was Moshe's. According to this, it would seem to leave no doubt that the staff was Moshe's. [It is noteworthy, however, that when the signs are in fact performed in front of B'nei Yisrael, (4:30), it seems to be Aharon who performed them. Why this would be is a question unto itself. But if Aharon was the one who performed them, perhaps it is not so simple that Moshe's staff was used.]

Nevertheless, Targum Yonasan here states outright that it was Aharon's staff to be brought to the Nile. In Tosafos HaShaleim, an interesting reasoning for this is brought. Moshe's staff had HaShem's name etched on it. Rashi here tells us that Paroah was found at the Nile bank each morning to relieve himself. Therefore, taking Moshe's staff with HaShem's name on it would have been like taking a sefer into the bathroom, or worse. So, it had to be Aharon's staff that was brought to the Nile.

Another puzzling fact to consider is that, as every school child learns at a very young age, it was certainly Aharon, not Moshe, who ultimately carried out the plague of blood. Netziv, in Ha'amek Davar, makes this point but asserts that it was still Moshe's staff that is the subject of this command. Subsequently (7:17), regarding the exact wording of the warning, he provides a rather creative interpretation of how the events unfolded. Even though it was Aharon who hit the Nile with his staff, the actual plague was carried out by HaShem through the staff in Moshe's hand.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

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 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

Tomorrow, 12 Teves, is the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joseph Schechter of Ner Yisrael. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yoseif ben Eliezer Z'ev.


Before Yaakov blesses all his children together, Yoseif brings his sons to Yaakov to be blessed. "And he blessed them on that day saying, by you Israel shall bless saying, may HaShem make you like Efrayim and Menasheh." Rashi validates Yaakov's prophecy by explaining that the blessing was that for generations to come Jews would bless their children to be like Efrayim and Menasheh. Indeed, it is the practice of most Jews to bestow this blessing upon their sons every Shabbos night. Yaakov was blessing his grandchildren that they should merit to be the paradigmatic children like whom all parents hope and pray their children will become.

 

Although the pasuk begins vayevarecheim, and he blessed them, the actual blessing itself begins becha, by you, in the singular. The word bachem would have been expected in that situation.

 

When we bless our children to be like Efrayim and Menasheh, it is certainly a tribute to them and their righteousness, having been brought up in a foreign land, surrounded by negative influences and nevertheless emerging as the great men they were. However, the word becha would seem to be referring to Yoseif. It is a tribute to Yoseif and the diligence and dedication with which he brought up his precious children in the most loathsome of societies that we pray that our sons be like his. Therefore, this blessing of Yaakov was very much directed to Yoseif as well.


Chazak, chazak, venischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

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