The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, December 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

One of the more famous stories in this week's parsha is Moshe's heroic smiting of the Egyptian taskmaster who was beating up another Jew. Rashi informs us of the unfortunate circumstances that lead up to that altercation. The story is immediately followed by the recounting of Moshe breaking up the fight between two fellow Jews. After one of the characters involved unleashes a verbal barrage on Moshe, he is forced to flee for his life. At a young age, children are taught that these two troublemakers were none other than Dasan and Aviram. However, there is another Midrash which does not seem to have gained similar fame, probably because it was not quoted by Rashi. I found it referenced in R' Chayim Kunyevsky's Limchaseh Atik which is a short digest of all the midrashic sources revealing the who's what's and where's that are left out from the actual pesukim in Tana"ch. He quotes from Shemos Rabba that the man who was being beaten by the Mitzri was none other than Dasan himself! He was the husband of Shelomis bas Divri and he was the one mouthed off to Moshe. Shocking!

I heard a shiur from R' Sholom Gold of Har Nof, examining the various treacherous actions and remarks of Dasan and Aviram. He seeks to find a reason why the Torah needed to relate all of these terrible, horrible, no good, very bad exchanges to us. His conclusion was that the Torah is trying to convey that there are Dasans and Avirams in every generation and we must be mindful of those who seek to destroy our nation from within. We need to be aware of their treachery because we need to know to identify it and fight it in our own times. This Midrash exposes yet another facet of their wickedness. Dasan could not even bring himself to show the slightest bit of gratitude to the hero who saved his life. Instead, he managed to twist it around into something negative. Unfortunately, we need to constantly be mindful of such personalities.

Have a good Shabbos.

Friday, December 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

    I have unfortunately just returned from the levaya of a great man - a pillar of Ner Yisroel and the Baltimore Jewish Community at large - R' Yosef Schechter, who passed away last night at the age of 84. R' Shechter has been very closely involved with the Yeshiva since the 1940's and served as a Rabbi in Norfolk, VA and New Orleans, LA. His son put it best when he said that R' Schechter retired from his job at the age of 65 but didn't stop doing his job until yesterday. This past Monday, R' Schechter was honoured at the Baltimore Siyum HaTorah, a project whose success and national adoption is attributed to R' Schechter's dedication. He will certainly be remembered with his warmth and his love of every single Jew. When he davened in the Agudah in the morning, he would sit at the back and you were "not allowed" to leave without having R' Schechter give you his famous "Have a good day." He would literally call people back if they somehow managed to sneak through. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas Yosef ben Eliezer Z'ev.
    When Yaakov's children escort his body back to Eretz Cana'an to be buried in Me'aras HaMachpeilah, the Canaanites are taken aback by the magnitude of the convoy for Yaakov Avinu and exclaim, (50:11) "This is a grievous mourning for Mitzrayim." From the wording of the pesukim, it seems on the surface like it was simply the size that impressed them. But the presence of Yosef also greatly contributed to their awe. Indeed, the gemara (Sotah 13a) recounts that the descendant of Eisav, Yishmael and the sons of Keturah met them with intentions to attack them and wage war. When they saw the crown of Yosef adroning Yaakov's coffin, they removed their own crowns and placed them on his coffin out of respect. When they saw that the Egyptian majesty saw fit to escort the body to its final resting place, they gained new appreciation for Yaakov Avinu's stature.
    There were many connections drawn today between the Yosef HaTzaddik of the Torah and the Yosef HaTzaddik of our time, as can be expected given the juxtaposition to the parhsa. Here is yet another. I first met R' Schechter when he came to Ottawa to raise money for the Yeshivah. I was given what I unfortunately first considered the burden, but later realized was the privilege, of chauffeuring R' Schechter around town. My first impression was that of surprise that someone in his 70's would still be travelling around collecting. As the years went on, I got to know R' Schechter better and realized what a great man he really was. He was a man of great humility. He did not demand even half of the respect he truly deserved. It was never beneath his dignity to go out and do the "dirty work" of collecting money for the Yeshivah. It was what needed to be done and he didn't let anything stop him. He gave every last ounce of strength to spreading Torah and the Yeshivah's name throughout the continent and bringing the zechus of Torah to those who might otherwise not have been so fortunate. When observing the unwaivering dedication and devotion R' Schechter had for the Yeshiva, for Baltimore and Torah as a whole, not only did I appreciate the greatness of the man, but I gained new appreciation for the cause he championed. He will be sorely missed by the Yeshivah, by Baltimore and the broader Jewish Community as a whole. Yehi zichro baruch.
Have a good Shabbos and may we hear of semachos in the future.

Friday, December 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

    After Yoseif finally reveals his identity to his brothers the atmosphere appears to be rather tense. The tension is apparently broken when Yoseif engages in a tearful embrace with Binyomin, followed by a similar gesture with each of the other brothers (45:14-15). As the pasuk clearly states, only then did the brothers begin to talk with Yoseif. Rashi explains that they were so ashamed that they were left literally speechless. It was only after they saw Yoseif crying and they knew his intentions were peaceful that they were able to speak with him.
    What is puzzling about this comment of Rashi was that Yoseif's revelation was clearly preceded by a very genuine, whole-hearted cry which was heard throughout the land of Egypt. Yoseif was not one to hide his emotions and there did not seem to be a hint of anger in the dialog that followed. Nevertheless, the brothers were still nervous. What seems to have put the brothers at ease was not necessarily Yoseif's crying alone. It was the equal treatment of all his brothers. Sure, they expected Yoseif to deal kindly with Reuven, who truly attempted to save him, or the other brothers who were less involved. But what about Yehudah, the mastermind behind the sale of Yoseif, or Shimon, who's "credited" with throwing him into the pit. But the pasuk clearly equates all brothers when recounting Yoseif's tearful embraces. Not only was he crying and full of loving, brotherly emotion, it was clear to the brothers that his feelings were equal for all the brothers, regardless of their involvement in his sale. Only then did they feel comfortable conversing with Yoseif. (Perhaps this interpretation can be read into Rashi's comment as well.)

Friday, December 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz

    After Paroah awakes from his two dreams, he is unable to get a satisfactory interpretation from the chartumim. We are told (41:8) "v'ein poser osam l'Pharoah." Rashi interprets "l'Pharoah" as for Paroah's benefit. The chartumim did offer possible meanings of the dream but they were not to Paroah's liking. They suggested, for example, that he would have seven daughters and then bury those seven doors as they would die in his lifetime. When Paroah tells Yoseif (24) "va'omar el hachartumim, v'ein magid li," it seems he relates these feelings to Yoseif as well. Nevertheless, Yoseif proceeds to interpret the dream in a similar fashion, foreshadowing seven-fold good fortune followed by seven-fold misery which erases that good fortune. Why was Yoseif's interpretation more acceptable to Paroah?
    There is some discussion in the commentary regarding Yoseif's advice to Paroah following his interpretation. Some even suggest that it was improper and out of place for Yoseif to be putting in his two cents. After all, that's not what Paroah asked him for. However, considering the above question, it seems quite clear why Yoseif had to do this. If Paroah has seven daughters and buries them all he is left with nothing. If he has seven years of plenty followed by seven years of unbearable famine he is left with worse than nothing. Had Yoseif simply interpreted the dream, his offering would have been no more acceptable than that of the chartumim. With Yoseif's intelligent solution to the problem, his interpretation became much more favourable. Indeed, Paroah declares (39) "now that God has revealed all of this to you, there is no one as understanding and wise as you." Understanding would seem to refer to his interpretation of the dream. Wisdom refers to his solution.
Have a good Shabbos and a Chanukah Samei'ach!