The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, May 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Kedoshim

This week's parsha may be short but it also contains the highest mitzvah density (or mitzvos-per-pasuk, 0.8 if you're counting) of any parsha. Perhaps the most well-known mitzvah of all would have to be (19:18) ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha, which children are taught at a very young age and even gentiles unfamiliar with the Bible are aware of. It is interesting to note, however, the context in which this famous phrase appears. The mitzvos which precede this one are not to hate one's friend and to rebuke them when they have done something wrong and not to take revenge or bear a grudge against one's friend.

It would seem that the Torah is teaching a very simple lesson. The true test of friendship is when things are not so peachy. When one sees his friend acting in a manner not in accordance with the Torah and must rebuke him or if one friend happens to wrong the other, if they are able to pull through those situations in the proper way as prescribed by the Torah then they will be able to achieve the level of ahavah between friends which is expected of us. At the same time, the Torah also seems to be delivering a message about rebuke. It is not simply a matter of preventing a transgression. It is discussed in the context of loving your neighbour because it must be done out of love for a fellow Jew and concern for their spiritual well-being, not just a form of citizen's law enforcement.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Sukas David

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Friday, May 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos

Special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my nephew and niece, Dovid Nisson and Tova Shonek on the birth of a baby girl, Tzivya, born over Pesach. Mazal tov to the extended Shonek, Bulka and Jakobovits families including the great great grandmother, Oma Jakovits.


In this week's parsha (18:21), we are introduced to the prohibition against the brutal practice of giving over one's child to the molech. The exact details of the molech are discussed in the gemara Sanhedrin. (I figured this would be apropos since my son and I recently finished the mishnayos of Sanhedring as part of Mishnah yomis.) In a nutshell, it refers to a father giving over his child to some form of avodah zarah. In the gemara (64b) quite an intriguing law concerning molech is taught. Rav Acha berei d'Rava states that one who gives over all of his children to the molech is exempt from the punishment for molech. He infers this from the word in the pasuk, "umizar'acha," from your offspring and not all of your offspring.


Tosafos ask a very simple question. Suppose someone has two children. If they give over one of their children to the molech and are liable for the death penalty, how is it possible for them to simply reverse their fate by transgressing all over again with their second child? Tosafos answer that this exemption would apply to someone with only one child or someone who gives over all of them at once. But it seems the assumption remains that in the scenario above, the death penalty would still apply.


R' Tzvi Pesach Frank, in Har Tzvi, raises an interesting question. In order to be given punishment, we require that the transgressor be properly warned beforehand. There is a concept called hasra'as safeik, which is a conditional warning where the action in which the transgressor will be engaging is not definitively a transgression of the specific prohibition. For example, for one to be warned not to throw a rock into a crowd of people because he might kill someone is hasra'as safeik for it is not clear that he will kill someone. According to some opinions this is not a valid warning. Therefore, according to those opinions, how can one ever receive punishment for molech? When you warn the father, it is an invalid warning because he can simply give over all of his children and be exempt. R' Frank suggests that the concept of hasra'as safeik is only problematic when it is uncertain that the prohibition will be transgressed at all. However, when a father gives over all his children, it is not that he has not transgressed the prohibition of molech. Rather, he has transgressed the prohibition but is merely exempt from the punishment. Therefore, since he definitely will be transgressing the molech prohibition, the warning is valid.


Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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Friday, April 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

For this year's thought on the haggadah, I would like to continue with the theme we discussed on the megillah – the applicability of our ancient stories to modern times – while touching on some points we have discussed in the past.

As we explained a number of years ago, one of the central charges of the seder experience is to see or consider ourselves as if we were part of the exodus from Egypt. On a simple level, this demands of us to use our imagination to travel back many thousands of years ago as if we ourselves were there during the exodus from Egypt. But this connection to the deliverance from Egypt is experienced in both directions. In addition to projecting ourselves back to that time, we can also project the exodus experience forward as we realize HaShem's salvation over the course of our history and in even more so, in our time.

The "fuel" for this journey is provided by another highlight of the seder – vehi she'amdah. As we take a good, long look at our history and come to the realization that our existence is threatened in every generation, it is but a simple step to realize that every generation HaShem provides a new geula of sorts.

Going through the haggadah, there was one passage that stood out as frighteningly applicable to our times. In the section of the haggadah that expounds on the pesukim from Ki Savo with the pesukim from sefer Shemos, we examine the phrase (Devarim 26:6) "vayareiu osanu." The way the haggadah explains this phrase, it speaks not of the Egyptians treating us badly but rather, making us appear bad, as it is connected to the pasuk (Shemos 1:10) dealing with the Egyptian "solution." The mistreatment of the Jews is justified by the claim that the Jews could potentially join forces with another enemy to bring Egypt down.

In The Egyptian Holocaust, David Farkas explores the many striking similarities between the subjugation in Egypt and the Holocaust. Indeed, the charge of dual and dueling loyalties (point #5) was prevalent in both cases. This isn't really unique to persecution of Jews. Since human beings do have a natural inclination to be reasonable and oppose mass murder, every entity that wishes to destroy what it considers to be an enemy, needs to engage in a significant campaign of dehumanizing that enemy in order to justify their annihilation.
For Jews, with their strong sense of community and national identity, the charge of dual loyalty is not a difficult case to make. This has been true throughout history and is certainly not a modern invention in the era of Jewish statehood, although it does seem to provide an easier target. Unfortunately, these claims have come to the fore in very recent times with statements by individuals in frighteningly significant positions. We must certainly be mindful of these threats while at the same time being proud of the positive national qualities that give rise to them.

Have a good Shabbos and Chag Kasher ve'Sameiach!

For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

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Friday, April 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

This Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the 13th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

This coming Tuesday, 4 Nissan, marks the 1st yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Rebbetzin Faigie Frankel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Leah Feiga bas Aharon Tzvi.

In this week's parsha we are taught about the laws concerning tzara'as that is found on the walls of one's house. There is an intriguing difficulty found in pasuk 14:37, "Vera'a es hanega vehineh hanega b`kiros habayis sheka'aruros yerakrakos o adamdamos umar'eihen shafal min hakir." First, the nega is referred to in the singular. However, in the rest of the pasuk it is described in the plural.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, gives a fascinating, yet somewhat complicated answer in the name of R' Netta Grunblatt (of Memphis, Tennessee). We are taught in the gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) that the required size of the tzara'as on the house is the size of two beans whereas other negaim require only one bean. One may deliberate on the following point: Is it that the required size of nig'ei batim is twice that of other negaim or that nig'ei batim requires two negaim? The difference between the two is illustrated with the precise language used by the Rambam. He writes, in regular cases of tzaa'as, that a nega smaller than a bean is "not a nega." However, in the laws of nig'ei batim, he writes that if the spot is less than two beans, it is tahor. The implication is that it is still considered a nega, but is nevertheless tahor since it hasn't reached the required size. [The halachic ramifications of this specification arise in connection with the gemara in Shabbos that states that the prohibition of cutting tzara'as out of one's skin applies even to a nega tahor.]


It seems from the Rambam that the proper interpretation would be the second, that nig'ei batim require two nega'im of total size two beans. Therefore, if the spot is less than two beans, it is still a nega, only it is tahor. This, suggests R' Grunblatt, is the explanation for the change in the pasuk from singular to plural. In the beginning, we are referring to the spot as a whole. However, since in essence we are dealing with two negaim, the pasuk describes them in the plural.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: White Hair

Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin


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Friday, March 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

This past Sunday, the 17th of Adar II, marked the yahrtzeit of R' Moshe Fuller, z"l, of Ner Yisroel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso.

This coming Sunday, 2 Nissan, marks the 13th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

This week's parsha begins on the eighth day of the proceedings leading up to the final setup of the mishkan. The joy of the day is interrupted by the tragic death of Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu. Later on, the parsha deals with the various signs of kashrus pertaining to animals, fish and birds. This is a rather odd transition at first glance. One usually expects to find some sort of common thread between two juxtaposed passages.


The key is one word.


Following the death of Nadav and Avihu, HaShem commands Aharon that he and his sons (and all kohanim who follow) that they may not drink wine before performing the service or they will be subject to death. The reason for this, as stated in the following pesukim (10:10-11) is ulhavdil, so that they may discern between holy and mundane, tamei and tahor. And so they may teach B'nei Yisrael all the laws that HaShem spoke to them through Moshe.


At the end of the parsha, after the discussion of the laws pertaining to the animal kingdom, we are told the reasoning - or at least some driving force - behind these laws, (11:37lehavdil, so that we may discern between the tamei and tahor, between the animal that is to be eaten and the animal that is not to be eaten. The repetition of lehavdil is the essence of the thread that runs through the parsha. First, we are taught of the great burden that the kohanim carry, the responsibility to judge between holy and mundane and between tamei and tahor. There are certainly many areas where it is only the kohanim who bear this burden. However, lest one think that this task is one reserved only for the kohanim, the Torah impresses upon us that each and every Jew carries this responsibility to a certain extent. This is an essential challenge for all Jews. The world has been created with forces of tum'ah and forces of taharah. Through this parsha we see that we have all been provided with the necessary guidelines to tackle this challenge and accurately discern between the holy and mundane, and the tamei and tahor.


In a leap year, this lesson falls in just the perfect time (although maybe just one week too late.) We just finished the joyous celebration of Purim. A superficial view of the holiday might lead one to refer to it as the "Jewish Halloween." But, of course, we know that it is nothing like that whatsoever and we must strive to make that distinction clear. Also, the lessons regarding responsibility with wine are also most apropos for this time. And as we leave Purim behind (while we finish off all the candy and nosh) and turn our sights to Pesach, we find another similar challenge. The Christian holiday of Easter falls out on Pesach nearly every year - not by coincidence but by design (theirs, not ours. In fact, the only time it does not fall out on Pesach would be on certain leap years when it falls out just after Purim.)  Again, we are given the opportunity to make a clear distinction between the devotion and dedication with which we celebrate our Holy Days and the way others celebrate their holidays.


Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim b'Simchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Lehavdil

For Parshas Parah:

Dikdukian: Oops (This one's quite funny. At least I think so.)

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Friday, March 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav

In this week's parsha, the korban todah is discussed. The todah is brought as a thanks to HaShem for one of four reasons discussed by Chaza"l. The todah consists of a sacrifice and 40 loaves of bread. Netzi"v, in Ha'amek Davar points out that even though the todah is a shelamim sacrifice whose prescribed time for eating is a day and a half, the todah may only be eaten that night. This, in addition to the excessive bread requirement will make it impossible for the one bringing the korban to consume everything on his own and thus he will be compelled to make a gathering for all his friends wherein he will praise HaShem in public, in order that he not leave over any of the korban after the night. This, suggests Netzi"v, is the reason why the Torah commanded the bringing of the todah in this fashion.

With this concept, Netzi"v (in Herchev Davar on the bottom of Ha'amek Davar) explains the pesukim from Tehillim that we recite in Hallel: "L'cha ezbach zevach toda, uv'shem HaShem ekra", L'cha ezbach refers to the korban (animal) which is referred to as a zevach todahUv'shem HaShem ekra refers to the public thanks to HaShem that is given at the gathering of friends. Nedarai laShem ashalem refers to the korban. In "negda na l'chol amo", the word negda literally comes from the words neged, opposite. However, Netzi"v suggests it can also be construed as coming  from the word haggadah, to tell, referring to the telling over of HaShem's praise that will take place at the gathering. Finally, bechatzros beis HaShem, besochechi Yerushalayim would at first glance seem to be contradictory for bechatzros etc. clearly refers to the boundaries of the Beis HaMikdash whereas besochechi Yerushalayim refers to the entire city. However, according to the Netziv's interpretation it is clear that bechatzros beis HaShem is referring to the korban which is brought within the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash. The meal in which the bread is eaten, however, will broadcast HaShem's praise throughout all of Yerushalayim. 

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: נעשה

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Wednesday, March 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

On a previous occasion, we have discussed that the story of Purim mirrors the story of yetzias Mitzrayim in many significant ways. However, it recently occurred to me that the very same time the story very much foreshadows the future destiny of our people, more significantly the events of the past century or so.


The period of exile between the two batei mikdash was certainly a difficult time. The destruction at the hands of Nevuchadnezzar and the subsequent subjugation in Bavel took its toll. But Haman's decree was a threat unlike any other which, if carried out, would have meant the demise of our nation. Similarly, in the period of galus we currently find ourselves, it can certainly be argued that threats we faced at the hands of Communist Russia and Nazi Germany were more grave and ominous than anything else we encountered throughout the millennia of pogroms, expulsions and persecution.


As the story progresses, we eventually find Esther, though unwanting, rising to power as the queen of the kingdom that essentially ruled the entire world. While we enjoyed our own sovereign monarchy for many centuries, the idea of a Jew sitting at the throne of a foreign power was certainly a foreign one. But desperate times called for desperate measures and this was necessary to put our salvation in motion.


The establishment of our nation state in Eretz Yisrael is certainly a hotly debated topic, even more than 70 years later. Like Esther's rise to the throne, it puts a Jewish state in a position of power which was never experienced throughout the many years of exile. But it can be (and has been) argued that this was a development born out of necessity, with millions upon millions of Jews having been defenselessly slaughtered by the nations that previously allowed us safe and tranquil refuge in their land. The "luxury" of self-determination became a tool for survival.


Just as it was Achashveirosh, the ruler of all nations, who put Esther on the throne, it was an act of an international body representing countries from all corners of the globe that made the State of Israel a reality. But in the megillah, we have Achashveirosh the man, who was very much an enemy of our people in many ways, alongside the concept of the king - hamelech. I do not know the exact source but there is a well-known idea that although HaShem's name does not appear at all in the megillah, the repetition of hamelech - which in some megillos finds itself at the top of every column - is, in truth, a metaphor for the true King who was really orchestrating all of the events from above. This was the case then and is surely the case now. In fact, it is always the case.


After finally escaping the clutches of Haman and all the death and destruction he had planned, we found ourselves on the cusp of the rebuilding of the bais hamikdash, which completed only a few short years later. We surely hope and pray that today, in our time, the rebuilding of the bais hamikdash is just around the corner, may it come speedily in our day.


Have a chag Purim samie'ach!


Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Please check out all Megillah-related Dikdukian posts

Al Pi Cheshbon: 10,00 Kikars

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The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

One of the topics often discussed in relation to Purim is the theme of (Esther 9:27) "kiyemu vekiblu," B'nei Yisrael's voluntary re-acceptance of the Torah and its correlation to the more coerced acceptance on Har Sinai. In going through the Megillah one year, it occurred to me that the connection is really much broader than that. The entire story of Purim parallels the episode of Yetzias Mitzrayim in many striking ways.

  • In Parshas Beshalach, Amaleik attacks B'nei Yisroel as a result of a lapse in Torah as Chazal teach us with regards to the word "Refidim"(Shemos 17:8). So, too, we are taught that B'nei Yisroel reached a spiritual low when they partook in the Achashveirosh's feast. And instantly Amaleik was brought upon them..

  • The pesukim (Ibid 15:14-16) tell us that after the splitting of Yam Suf, all the nations of the world trembled and were petrified of B'nei Yisroel. A similar situation is found in the Megillah. "Many from among the people of the land converted to Judaism, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

  • Despite the fear of the nations following the splitting of Yam Suf, Amaleik still displayed utmost brazenness by attacking B'nei Yisroel. Here, despite widespread conversion out of utter fear, Amaleik still had the audacity to wage war with B'nei Yisroel. (Pasuk 9:17 implies that all the killings were out of self-defense.

  • The gathering at Har Sinai brought B'nei Yisroel to an absolute level of unity, as Rashi teaches us (Shemos 19:2) "Ke'ish echad, beleiv echad," like one man with one heart. When Esther realized the time of need, she commanded (4:16) "go and gather together all the Jews." This was not to be a physical gathering but rather a gathering of hearts. Esther knew that the only way to pull through this ordeal was if the Jews were unified as one.

  • Following the acceptance of the Torah on Har Sinai, B'nei Yisroel merited the awesome "Gilui Shechinah" of the Mishkon. So, too, following the "Kiyemu vekiblu" of Purim, the Jews merited the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.

The important lesson to take from these correlations would seem to be that in order to accomplish anything, the Jews need to be united. This is surely a great challenge for the Jewish community today. But we must strive to bring K'lal Yisroel together and may we merit the building of the third Beis HaMikdash speedily in our day.