The Weekly Shtikle Blog

An online forum for sharing thoughts and ideas relating to the Parshas HaShavua

View Profile

Friday, April 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

    In parshas Acharei Mos we are told (18:5) "You shall keep My statues and My ordinances which, if a man does, he shall live by them." In the gemara (Sanhedrin 74a) we are tought that from the phrase "vochai bahem," and he shall live by them, we are to infer that one is meant to live by the mitzvos and not die for them. Thus, if one is put in a position where they have to choose between death and the transgression of a mitzvah, they shoul transgress rather than be killed. Of course, there are three exceptions to this rule. The strangely ironic part about the pasuk from our parsha is that it appears in the introduction to the passage dealing with the prohibitions of illicit relationships which is one of those very three. The Torah is telling us that we need not sacrifice our lives for the mitzvos just before it goes into lengthy detail regarding a mitzvah for which we must.
    The mishna (Berachos 33b) teaches that one who beseeches HaShem's mercy "like the mercy He has on the bird's nest" is silenced. One of the reasons given in the gemara is that this person is erroneously painting HaShem's ways with the broad brush of mercy. We do not understand the true motivation behind each and every mitzvah and it is wrong for us to assume that HaShem leans towards a specific trait.
    Perhaps, this message is being conveyed here. The limitation excusing transgressions in the face of death might lead us to understand the Torah as inherently lenient. The requirement to sacrifice one's life rather than transgress one of the three cardinal sins might lead us to understand the Torah as overly strict, putting human life in second place. But neither is true. The Torah puts these ideas together in the very same passage in order to convey that to us.

Friday, April 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria / Metzora

This week's shtikle comes with special Mazal Tov wishes to my cousin Meyer Seliger upon his recent marriage to Shifra Schwarz of Manchester, England. Mazal Tov to the entire family and may they build a Bayis Ne'eman beYisroel.

    The topic that dominates most of Parshios Tazria and Metzora is the illness of tzora'as. Traditionally, tzora'as afflicted someone who spoke "lashon hara" as it did Miriam at the end of Parshas Beha'alosecha.

    R' Moshe Shternbuch in Ta'am Voda'as, in the name of R' Yisroel Salanter, writes that the end of the previous parsha, Parshas Shemini, we are taught of the animals that are not to be eaten and the tum'ah that results when we do. While it seems that very many people are careful about what they put into their mouths, they are seemingly far less careful of what comes out. The juxtaposition of these two topics is meant to show that just as putting the wrong things in our mouths results in serious tum'ah, the same grievous consequences result when we allow the wrong things to come out.

Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka

Friday, April 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

    The beginning of this week's parsha recounts the proceedings on the eighth day of the consecration of the Mishkon. After preparing a series of korbanos, Aharon raises his hands, blesses the nation and then steps down from preparing the chatas, olah and shelamim sacrifices (9:22). Rashi writes that the blessing that Aharon gave to the nation was the traditional Birkas Kohanim (Bemidbar 6:24-26).

    Ba'al HaTurim offers a concise, yet interesting insight into the relevance of Birkas Kohanim to this specific occasion. Aharon HaKohein had just completed the preparation of three korbanos and the three blessings of Birkas Kohanim each correspond to one of the sacrifices. The first blessing, "Yevarechecha HaShem veyishmerecha," is the berachah of shemirah, watching over. We find the theme of watching over in connection with prevention of sin, as in the song of Chanah (Shemuel I 2:9) "Raglei chasidav yishmor," He guards the ways of the pious. This is traditionally interpreted as HaShem guarding the righteous from unintentional sin. This blessing, therefore, corresponds to the korban chatas, brought for inadvertent transgressions.

    The second blessing is connected to the korban olah by means of the pasuk referring to the trek to Yerushalayim for the shalosh regalim, (Shemos 34:24) "Ba'alosecha leiraos," when you go up to be seen. The going up to Yerushalayim facilitates our "being seen" before HaShem. The olah, all of which goes up to the Heavens, warrants the second blessing that HaShem will illuminate His countenance towards us.

    The final blessing of Birkas Kohanim, "veyaseim lecha shalom," is the bestowing of peace. The root of the word shelamim is shalom, peace, as Rashi (3:1) explains. The shelamim brings peace to the world and peace to all the parties involved in the korban because each one gets a portion. This establishes the most obvious connection of the three between the shelamim and the final blessing. Aharon invoked Birkas Kohanim not as an arbitrary series of blessings but one that was specifically related to the service he was performing.

Have a good Shabbos.

Friday, April 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Shabbas Chol HaMo'eid Pesach

    Rashi in Parshas Bo (Shemos 12:15) describes a complicated drasha from Mechilta. The basic summary of the drasha is that it is obligatory to eat matzah on the first night of Pesach but from then on, it is optional, so long as you do not eat chameitz. Most of the commentaries learn that this means that for the remaining days of Pesach, the mitzvas aseih to eat matzah is non-existent There is only the mitzvas lo-sa'aseih not to eat chameitz. The GR"A, however, is of the opinion that although eating matzah is not obligatory on the remaining days, one does fulfill a mitzvah by eating matzah. The mitzvah takes on the status of a mitzvah kiyumis, a permissive mitzvah, rather than a mitzvah chiyuvis, obligatory mitzvah. There is even earlier support for this stance in Chizkuni and Ibn Ezra (on the pasuk in Parshas Bo) and even possibly from Targum Yonasan ben Uziel (Devarim 16:3).

    Many ask on this opinion why, if there is a mitzvah all of Pesach, do we not make a brachah of "al achilas matzah" for all of Pesach like we make when we eat in a sukkah during the rest of Sukkos. After all, one is not obligated to be in a sukkah either. It is only if one eats or sleeps that one is required to do so in the sukkah. The mitzvah of tzitzis is also not obligatory. One is only obligated (by the Torah) to put tzitzis on a four-cornered garment. There is nothing wrong with walking around without a four-cornered garment and therefore, without tzitzis. Nevertheless, we make a brachah on tzitzis as well. Why is matzah different?

    The Ba'al HaMaor exlains why sukkah is different from matzah. Chazal learn that it is impossible for anyone to go three days without sleep. Therefore, since sleep is inevitable, it must be that the Torah wanted the mitzvah of sukkah to be fulfilled throughout Sukkos. However, it is certainly possible to go the entire remainder of Pesach without "needing" to eat matzah and therefore it is not an inevitable mitzvah. This of course does not answer the problem of tzitzis.

    R' Shlomoh HaKohein MiVilna differentiates between matzah and the others. Although tzitzis is not an absolute obligation, once one has a four-cornered garment it becomes an absolute obligation. The Torah says a four-cornered garment must have tzitzis. The same can be said about sukkah. Although one can theoretically dodge the mitzvah of sukkah by not eating meals or sleeping, the Torah does decree that sleeping and eating must be done in the sukkah. This cannot be said about matzah. There is no scenario during the remaining days of Pesach where the Torah decrees that one must eat matzah and thus, there is no special brachah. [This approach seems difficult to me, considering we are obligated to have two full-fledged meals on Yom Tov. We must make a "hamotzi" in order to fulfill this obligation and thus, we are certainly commanded to enter a scenario where the consumption of Matzah is necessary. This would seem to render the first answer problematic as well.]w

Moadim leSimchah!

Sunday, April 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Haggadah shel Pesach

    Normally, I feel a little guilty when the shtikle is nothing more than a question. I feel it is to some degree my duty to deliver answers as well as questions. However, for the Haggadah, when so much revolves around the asking of questions to spur discussion, I feel no such guilt.
    There is considerable discussion surrounding the scope of Makas Bechoros. There is, of course, the famous Rashi (Shemos 12:30) which states that even if there was no technical first-bron in the house, the oldest was considered the "bechor" and died. In all the discussions, it seems assumed that the default definiton of a "bechor" in this case is the first born from the mother (see Ramban.)
    It is therefore puzzling that the perek in Tehillim chronicling the exodus from Egypt recounts Makas Bechoros as follows: (78:51) "Vayach kol bechor beMitzrayim, reishis onim be'ohalei Cham." The term "reishis onim," or a form thereof, is used twice in the Torah (Bereishis 49:3 and Devarim 21:17) both clearly referring to the "first strength" of the father. Why is this term used in Tehillim to describe Makas Bechoros if it, at the least, falls short of conveying the full scope of the plague?
    In the Haggadah, we praise HaShem stating "Baruch shomer havtachaso, baruch hu - shehaKadosh Baruch Hu chishav es hakeitz." We praise HaShem for "calculating" the time of the redemption from Mitzrayim. Surely, we are not praising HaShem for being able to count to 400. What does this mean?

    In the end, as we know, the final tally of 400 years was calculated from the year Yitzchak was born for it was then that Avraham had a child who was a stranger in a land that was not his. This would seem to be what we are praising HaShem for.  The 400 years could have started later. HaShem not only "kept His word" but also made sure the decree of 400 years was lighter than it could have been. I don't think I'm the first to suggest this.
    But this is not so simple. If we are clearly defining the decree as referring to Avraham's progeny being in a land that was not theirs, did this end with Yetzias Mitzrayim? It was another forty years until they entered the land they could call their own. Even if the sin of the spies had not taken place, the spies were only sent out over a year after coming out of Egypt. That's still 401 years.
    I have a theory regarding this quandary but it is incomplete. First, it does not seem farfetched to suggest that the fallout from the sin of the Golden Calf delayed their potential entry into Eretz Yisroel. Had everything gone smoothly while Moshe was on the mountain, it is conceivable that B'nei Yisroel would have entered Eretz Yisroel immediately. I believe I have seen this somewhere but can't remember where.
    It seems the decree of 400 years came with two or more different significant checkpoints from which the count might begin. HaShem took us out of Egypt with the intention that the starting point would be Yitzchak's birth. Had we done everything right, we would have entered Eretz Yisroel that year. Instead, the starting point was pushed off 40 years and our entry into Eretz Yisroel followed. So what was the starting point? Yitzchak married Rivkah when he was 40 years old. Perhaps this was seen as the next step in the continuity of Avraham's offspring and thus, became a checkpoint from which the 400 years were calculated.
    Nevertheless, we must give praise to HaShem for initially counting the 400 years to end as early as possible and taking us out of Egypt 400 years after Yitzchak's birth.
Have a Chag Kasher veSamei'ach!