The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, August 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

This week's parsha discusses a wide range of topics. Among them are the unique laws of eidim zomemim, the false, plotting witnesses who are given the exact punishment they planned to cause to the defendant. The manner in which they are refuted must be very specific as well as the timing of their disproof. The mishnah (Makkos 1:6) teaches that the refutation must come after the defendant had been sentenced but before the sentence was carried out in order for these laws to take effect. This is the famous conundrum of eidim zomemim, that the false witnesses are punished accordingly only if they ultimately fail but not if they succeed. The mishnah learns this law in cases of capital punishment from the pasuk (19:19) "And you shall do to him as he plotted to do to his brother." The fact that the Torah refers to the defendant as his brother indicates that he is still alive. If he has already been given the death penalty, the punishment referred to in this pasuk does not apply.

Similarly, the gemara (Sanhedrin 10a) learns from the pasuk (25:3) "And your brother shall be flogged before your eyes" that the punishment of lashes must not result in death for after the lashes, he must remain your brother.

Many commentaries question this understanding of the word ach, brother. After all, the pasuk (Vayikra 21:2) teaches us that a regular kohein may become tamei for the purpose of the burial of an immediate family member. There, the word ach is clearly referring to someone who is no longer alive. How can the aforementioned sources assume ach to be a living person?

Rasha"sh on the gemara in Sanhedrin offers an interpretation. The Torah uses the word ach in two different contexts. Sometimes it used to refer to an actual brother with a familial relationship. In this case, the relationship is not broken by death and thus, he remains a brother even after passing on. However, when the Torah uses the word ach to refer to a fellow Jew, the rationale is that he is your brother in mitzvos. He shares the same obligations as you. When he dies, he is absolved of his obligation to perform mitzvos and this brotherly relationship is severed. Therefore, the gemara justifiably extrapolates from the usage of ach that we are referring to someone who is still alive.

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
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Friday, August 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

This week's parsha presents the contradiction of the following two pesukim. First we are told (15:4) that with the proper fulfillment of the laws of shemitah as they pertain to loans "there will not be any needy among you." In the very same perek we are told (pasuk 11) "For the needy shall never cease from within the land." Rashi explains homiletically from the Midrash (Sifrei Piska 114) that when we are performing HaShem's will, the needy will be among others and not among us. But when we are not performing HaShem's will, there will be needy among us.

On a more simple level, however, perhaps the contradiction may be reconciled as follows: The first pasuk is indeed giving us an assurance that with the proper performance of the laws of shemitah, poverty will be wiped out from the community. The second pasuk, however, is stated regarding the mitzvah of tzedakah. It is not a prediction of the future. Rather, the Torah is stating a practical fact as a reason why charity is always necessary. You should never say, "someone else will take care of him, he'll make it somehow." The Torah is teaching us a lesson that the poor will never just cease to be. In order to tackle poverty, you must take the initiative and give tzedakah and never rely on someone else to do the job.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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


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Friday, August 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

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

 

While last week's parsha contained the first paragraph of keriyas shema, in this week's parsha we find the second. Both begin with the subject of our obligation to love HaShem. Although the two seem quite similar, there is one obvious difference. The first parsha demands of one to love HaShem bechol levavecha, with all your heart, uvchol nafshecha, with all your soul, uvchol meodecha, which Rashi explains to mean with all of your money. The second parsha mentions bechol levavchem uvchol nafshechem but there is no mention of bechol meodechem.

 

Meharsh"a (Berachos 35b) offers an explanation for this omission. In the gemara it is explained, according to one opinion, that the scenario of the second parsha of Shema is that of ainam osim retzono shel Makom, those who do not fulfill the will of HaShem. Meharsh"a points out that it is clear from the very beginning of the parsha that we are talking about people who perform the mitzvos and demonstrate a love of HaShem. Rather, he concludes in accordance with Tosafos that this parsha is surely referring to people who do fulfill HaShem's will, only not on the same level of complete tzadikim who can rely on their work being done by others and need not worry about plowing their fields. He uses this to explain the discrepancy between the two parshios. The first parsha, outlining the ideal service of HaShem, includes even the devotion of one's property and assets. The reward for that level of service is, as the gemara explains, that your work will be performed by others. The second parsha speaks to those on a slightly lower level for whom that degree of dedication is too difficult. Consequently, they will have to do their work themselves.

 

R' Moshe Shternbuch, in Ta'am Vada'as offers an alternate explanation. The two parshios speak of different forms of love. He understands the first parsha to be speaking of true devotion to HaShem and not to serve other gods for which we are indeed commanded to give up our lives. For this aspect of our service of HaShem we are certainly expected to part with our monetary possessions as well. However, the second parsha refers specifically to the service of HaShem through the performance of mitzvos. We are required to devote all of our heart and soul toward this cause. However, we are not expected to dispose of all our assets for this purpose. After all, we may give no more than a fifth to tzedakah (Kesubos 50a) and spend no more than a third on the fulfilling of a mitzvah (Bava Kamma 9a). Therefore, uvchol meodechem is left out of the second parsha.



Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: To Afflict the Corrector

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Friday, July 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eschanan


Today, the 15th of Av, marks the yahrtzeit of my Opa, Mr. George Jakobovits. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

In next week's parsha we are warned not to mistakenly attribute our successes and accomplishments to our own power and might without giving proper recognition to HaShem who has granted us that power.(8:17-18) When we say in our heart kochi ve'otzem yadi - my power and the might of my hand have made me this wealth - we must remember that it is HaShem who gives us the power to make that wealth. The need for this warning is understandable as it is easy to get carried away with one's own accomplishments and forget the true source that made everything possible.

However, in this week's parsha we find a warning against a much more brazen form of forgetfulness. (6:10-12) HaShem will bring us to the land of Israel where we will find great cities which we did not build, houses full of plenty which we did not fill ourselves, hewn cisterns which we did not hew, vineyards and olive trees which we did not plant. Yet we are immediately warned to beware lest we forget HaShem who brought us out of Mitzrayim. It would appear that it is part of the human condition that even while enjoying a plentiful bounty which we are fully aware was given to us a gift, one can get so carried away that the giver is forgotten.

Perhaps for this reason, this warning is immediately preceded by the first parsha of Shema. If it could be summarized, the message seems to be to surround ourselves with reminders of HaShem's Divine Providence and His Torah. We are to surround ourselves physically and temporally - in all places and at all times. From the moment we awake until we go to sleep, at home or on the road we must constantly remind ourselves. We adorn ourselves with reminders on our head and arms and on each doorpost in our home. The precise juxtaposition of the parshios is teaching us that the only true way to make sure never to forget is to constantly remind ourselves.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: You were shown
Dikdukian: Raise the Valleys
Al Pi Cheshbon: Moshe's Pleas
Al Pi Cheshbon: Gemtrias off by 1

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

Friday, July 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim / Chazon / Tish'ah B'Av

In a shiur on the haggadah earlier this year I heard an interesting perspective on vehi she'amdah. Part of the retribution meted out upon those who seek to destroy us is that they endure a legacy of association with evil more so than others who might be guilty of equally nefarious deeds. This is not a concrete rule but consider, as an example, the liberal use of the word Nazi in association with anything evil. Conversely, how much of the general population are even aware of more recent perpetrators of similar heinous crimes such as Pol Pot or Slobodan Milošević.

However, earlier on in our history, before many of our brutal persecutors came to be, there was a single paradigm of evil – Sedom and its neighbouring cities. Moshe Rabbeinu first references Sedom in the rebuke at the beginning of parshas Nitzavim. In this week's haftarah of chazon, the navi Yeshayahu makes a sharp comparison between the wickedness of the generation and that of Sedom. But in a passage we will read tomorrow night in Eichah, Yirmiyahu takes it one step further in exclaiming (4:6) that the crimes perpetrated by our nation were even greater than those of Sedom.

As related by R' Moshe Hauer on Tish'ah B'Av last year, R' Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, author of Eim HaBanim Semeichah, in his work on Tanach, addresses this shocking charge. Can it really be said that the generation at the end of the first Beis HaMikdash was more evil than Sedom? There were definitely significant sins which warranted the destruction, but it was still a nation of generally decent upstanding people. Sedom, on the other hand was pure evil through and through. Wickedness was the societal norm.

He explains that the continuation of the pasuk must be considered in order to understand what Yirmiyahu is trying to convey. The sin was greater than that of Sedom – which was overturned in an instant. The actual deeds of Sedom and its neighbours were surely far greater than that of the generation of the churban. But Sedom met its fate in the blink of an eye without any warning. There was no navi coming to proclaim (as Yonah did for Nineveh,) that their doom was impending. It is in this regard that the sins of the generation exceeded those of Sedom. For generation after generation, navi after navi, we were warned repeatedly to change our ways. We were given the opportunity to reverse course but to no avail.

In a related passage in Eim HaBanim Semeichah, R' Teichtal explains that it is difficult to forge a way forward and to know what we need to do in our time. However, he relates a parable of a man wandering the desert, searching for a way out until he happens upon another individual in the same predicament. The other man tells him that he doesn't know the way out but they should still stick together, because from what he has tried he knows what is not the way out. If we do not know the clear path to geulah, we must at least be able to learn from previous generations and failures what it is that gets us in trouble over and over again.

May we merit the ultimate geulah speedily in our day!

I highly recommend listening to the original audio – only 5½ minutes – available here.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Don't you worry!
Dikdukian: Past and Future
AstroTorah: Like the Stars of the Heavens
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, July 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

As if the Three Weeks and Nine Days were not sad enough, this week, my cousin, Mrs. Michelle Jakobovits, passed away here in Baltimore. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Rochel Mirel bas Shmuel HaLevi.

The beginning of parshas Mas'ei includes a quick rundown of every single resting point along the journey out of Mitzrayim towards Eretz Yisrael. It is difficult to read through this account without wondering about the necessity to recount each and every stop. We know where they left from and we know where they end up. We even already know about the more significant events in between and where they took place. But why do we need to know every single other location?

I discovered an inspiration towards this idea from a very unlikely source, although it does not really answer the question. There is a quadrennial international sporting event currently captivating much of the entire world – the World Cup of Soccer (or football, depending where you are from.) One of the more intriguing aspects of the game (in which I, like many others, only have but a quadrennial interest) is the way the ball is passed around. The statistics actually keep tallies of the total passes and they are in the hundreds and can sometimes even be in the thousands during a single match. Additionally, although most other team sports do not have the ball or other object typically passed back further than a certain point – and some sports even forbid it – in soccer, the passes range throughout the entire field and often retreat all the way back to the goalkeeper. These numerous passes are necessary to build a scoring a chance which can often take many minutes to develop. If even one of these passes is off the mark, it can spell immediate doom.

Similarly (lehavdil), our journeys in the midbar often did not move in the forward direction. If they had, the whole sojourn would have culminated in a matter of days. But each change of course in whichever direction was necessary, whether for positive reasons or otherwise. We may not know the true purpose behind each of the individual stopping points, aside from some insights offered by Chaza"l. But we can certainly rest assured that there was a Divine calculation every step of the way.


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

Friday, July 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

In this week's parsha, Moshe asks of HaShem to find a suitable replacement to take over the leadership of B'nei Yisrael after he passes away. Moshe sums up the qualifications in one pasuk (27:17), "who will go out in front of them and come in front of them, who will bring them out and bring them in, so that the people of HaShem shall not be like sheep without a shepherd." It seems rather startling that in this short list of qualifications, Moshe does not seem to be particular about the scholarly attributes of the new leader. Could it possibly be that Moshe was not bothered that the new leader of B'nei Yisrael be a talmid chacham?

 

I think the answer lies in the exact wording that Moshe used, "asher yeitzei lifneihem, va'asher yavo lifneihem." In the gemara (Sotah 13b) Moshe's words at the beginning of parshas Vayeilech (Devarim 31) are analyzed. He says that he is 120 years today, "lo uchal od latzeis velavo," I can no longer go out and come in. The gemara notes that we know from the pesukim at the end of the Torah that Moshe never lost his vigour, "lo nas leicho." Rather, the meaning of the pasuk is "latzeis velavo bedivrei halachah," to come and go in halachah, teaching you that the wells of chachmah were sealed from him before he died and he could no longer learn. We see from the gemara that the terminology "latzeis velavo" can refer to Torah scholarship. Perhaps that is the meaning here as well. Moshe was in fact asking HaShem that the new leader be one who could guide B'nei Yisrael in Torah learning as well.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato

Dikdukian:  I say Yericho, you say Yereicho
Dikdukian:  All of the brothers

Dikdukian: Pinechas: What's in a Name?

Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

AstroTorah: What's your Sign? by R' Ari Storch

 

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