The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, August 31

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

This past Friday night, my brother's mother-in-law and noted speaker Rebbitzen Judy Young passed away in New York at the age of 50. Baruch Dayan HaEmes. You can read more about her here and here. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas R' Moshe.

    B'nei Yisroel are commanded (27:4) that after they cross the Yardein they are to set down the rocks on Har Eival, etc. In the gemara Sanhedrin 44a, R' Shaila teaches that Yehoshua did not act accordingly as the pasuk instructed to perform this ceremony immediately after crossing the Yardein but he travelled for 60 mil. Tosafos asks an obvious question. B'nei Yisroel were clearly commanded to do all this on Har Grizim and Har Eival. Is it Yehoshua's fault that these mountains were 60 mil from the Yarden?

    Tosafos puts together a rather creative answer. In the gemara (Sotah 33b) there is a dispute between R' Yehuda and R' Elazar. R' Yehuda holds that Har Grizim and Eival were far away from the Yardein while R' Elazar holds that they were right next to it. Tosafos explains that R' Elazar holds that there were two sets of mountains and that they carried out the commandment on the closer one. The Yerushalmi says that according to R' Elazar, they made two mountains by themselves upon crossing the Yardein and called one Grizim and one Eival. Tosafos explains that R' Shaila here is of the opinion that what B'nei Yisroel were commanded to do follows R' Elazar's interpretation. But what they in fact did follows R' Yehuda's interpretation and that is why Yehoshua is rebuked for having delayed 60 mil.

Have a good Shabbos and kesivah vachasimah tovah. 

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, August 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

    This week's parsha deals with the proceedings with regards to a case of illicit relations with a betrothed girl or married woman. The betrothed girl must be at least 12 years old, without having shown complete signs of adulthood in order to be subject to these specific laws. Additionally, these laws only apply after the kiddushin (betrothal) stage and not after marriage.

    There is an interesting discrepancy found in the pesukim dealing with these transgressions. With regards to the penalty of death delivered in the case of the betrothed girl (stoning), the Torah comments (22:21,24) "And you shall wipe out the evil from your midst." However, with regards to the death penalty in the case of ordinary adultery (strangulation), it is written (22:22) "And you shall wipe out the evil from Yisroel."

    The Brisker Rav, R' Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik, zt"l, offers an explanation. The gemara (Sanhedrin 57b) teaches that a Ben-Noach (gentile) who is found guilty of illicit relations with a Jew, which are applicable to gentiles is put to death in the same manner as any gentile who transgresses one of the seven gentile commandments, namely death by the sword. However, if he is found guilty of illicit relations with a Jew which are not applicable to gentiles, he is put to death in the same manner as a Jew who commits the same offense. The only such case, the gemara points out, is the case of the betrothed girl. The concept of a betrothed girl does not exist in matters between gentiles. Therefore, a gentile guilty of this offense is put to death by stoning, just like a Jew. When the Torah details these proceedings, it is written, "And you shall wipe out the evil from your midst," because this process applies to everyone. Since the concept of a married woman exists with gentiles, a gentile who is found guilty of adultery, even with a married Jewish woman, is given his own special death penalty. It is therefore written, "And you shall wipe out the evil from Yisroel," since the regular death penalty in this case is not applicable to gentiles.


    See for a discussion on the possibility that one should have in mind to be yotzei the mitzvah of Zachor with this week's reading.


    A number of years ago, I posted a link to fun "Shiluach HaKein" game for this week's parsha. That page has since disappeared but with the aid of I was able to recover the old game and I have posted it on a page of my own. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

R' Sadia Gaon lists 10 symbolic approaches to why we blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. However, he makes only a remote, if any, reference to the connection between the shofar and war. This connection is seen perhaps most prominently in the battle of Yericho. Additionally, when B'nei Yisroel are engaged in a war, we are instructed (Bemidbar 10:9) to blow the trumpets. The shofar serves as a battle cry of sorts.

This week, we began blowing the shofar following davening as part of our yearly Elul ritual in preparation for Rosh HaShanah, only a month away. These shofar blasts are generally regarded as a wakeup call. Perhaps we can also view these shofar blasts as a call to arms - a reminder to begin to wage war against our yeitzer hara as we turn our focus towards teshuvah in preparation for the Yom HaDin.

It is therefore fitting that Rosh Chodesh Elul coincides with parshas Shofetim. Of the many mitzvos discussed in this week's parsha, a good handful of them pertain to how we are supposed to conduct ourselves when doing battle. Most notably, we are warned when waging war not to exhibit any fear of the enemy for HaShem is with us orchestrating the outcome. We are then taught of the process of extending an offer for peace before waging war on a city. However, at closer inspection, the conditions of the peace are total and complete subservience from the inhabitants of the city. Indeed, the battle cry of the shofar coupled with the strict military instructions found in the parsha work together to focus our attention to the task at hand for the month of Elul. May it be a strong and productive month for us all and may we all merit a kesivah vachasimah tovah.

Have a good Shabbos.

Friday, August 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

For all those who might happen to be in Baltimore for Shabbos, we will be sponsoring the kiddush following davening at the Kol Torah shul -  3209 Fallstaff Rd - in honour of the birth of our daughter, Chaya Shaindel.
    This week's parsha contains a number of sections related to various types of avodah zarah. Nowadays, it is very difficult for us to comprehend the strong inclination towards idol worship that existed in those times. This is because, as the gemara (Sanhedrin 64a) explains, the yeitzer hara for avodah zarah was destroyed during the early years of the second Beis HaMikdash through some supernatural process. However, certain nuances in the pesukim offer us an insight into avodah zarah which perhaps may help us combat the pseudo-avodos zaros of our day.
    First, the Torah warns us (12:30) "lest you inquire after their gods, saying: 'How do these nations serve their gods? I do likewise.' " The Torah is clearly warning against the dangers of what might be disguised as "intellectual curiosity." One is only permitted to study the ways of the nations if it is clearly done in order to know how to answer their challenges or the challenges of another who is arguing their point of view. To simply explore their gods and their worship out of curiosity is where it all begins.
    The Torah then proceeds to discuss three different examples of how idolatry might come to infiltrate the community. First, there is the false prophet. Then there is the meisis, the friend or family member who privately attempts to lure another towards idolatry. Last, we have the city which turns as a whole towards other gods. In each case we find a common term used by the seducer:  "Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them." Again we find that the idolater is always looking to appeal to the curious side of his victim. He is not attempting to lure you into worshiping a deity with whom you are somewhat familiar. He uses the mystery of the unknown to peak your interest. Throughout these sections, the Torah is repeatedly reminding us to keep our intellectual curiosity in check.

Friday, August 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

    There are a number of interesting little differences between the first parsha of Keriyas Shema which we read last week, and the second which we read this week. One of them is that in the first parsha, the mitzva of Keriyas Shema, "beshivt'cha beveisecha, uv'lechtecha vaderech" is written before the mitzva of Tefillin. It is the other way around in the second parsha.
    R' Chaim Kunyevsky, in his unique manner, offers a novel explanation. The Beiur Halacha in the beginning of siman 58 concludes that Keriyas Shema Kevasikin, i.e. immediately prior to Heneitz HaChamah (sunrise), takes precedence over davening with Tefillin. If you can do only one or the other, it is better to do Shema Kevasikin. Rashi has explained that the first parsha speaks to a yachid, a single person and the second parsha is talking to the rabbim, the masses. The gemara (Yoma 37b) says that a tzibbur does not have the ability to synchronize all together kevasikin. Therefore, it is definitely suggested that the tzibbur daven at a time where they would be putting on Tefillin.
    So, the first parsha which refers to a yachid, puts Kriyas Shema first because for a yachid it takes precedence. But the second parsha speaks to the rabbim, so it puts Tefillin first since for them, it takes precedence.