The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

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Friday, March 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

This past Sunday, Yeshivas Ner Yisroel lost yet another of its great ambassadors. R' Moshe Fuller, z"l, only in his 40's, passed away after a long bout with cancer. It was only 2 1/2 years ago that we were mourning the loss of R' Naftoli Neuberger who was nearly single-handedly responsible for rescuing Persian Jewry. Moshe Fuller, was R' Neuberger's South American arm, so to speak. While he was not necessarily rescuing communities from tyrannical governments, he rescued hundreds from the sometimes more daunting depths of disaffiliation and disinterest in Judaism and Torah. He masterminded a program to bring otherwise disconnected Jewish boys and girls from Central and South America to the Yeshivah in the winter or summer (depending on when their summer was) to give them a taste of Torah atmosphere. Many boys eventually stayed to learn in Yeshivah. There are many thriving communities in Latin America, such as the one in Panama which now boasts a kollel, that owe their success to him.
This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso.

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 Yisroel 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 for these laws, (11:37) "lehavdil," 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 that bear this burden. However, the Torah must impress 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 way, R' Moshe Fuller exemplified this idea in a geographic sense as it relates to Torah. He was driven by the conviction that Torah is for everybody without exception. Some might merit to immerse themselves in Torah all day and some might only get a taste. But no one should be left out. He saw a giant void in the the communities of Latin America. He was never willing to accept this as a reality and he did everything within his powers to extend the reach of Torah to any and all. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy and will be sorely missed by all those who had the pleasure and privilege to know him - and probably by those who did not as well.


Here are some links of interest:
Good Shabbos and may we hear besuros tovos!
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!
Eliezer Bulka

Thursday, March 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

    Purim is a festival of joy and celebration, a time to bask in the light of HaShem's great miracles. But it is also a time to reflect on teshuvah and the crucial role it played in bringing about the salvation for Esther and the entire nation. The following gemara is often quoted or referenced in regards to that theme:
Rabi Abba bar Kahana taught: The removal of the ring (which Achashveirosh gave to Haman upon agreeing to his plan to exterminate the Jews) was greater than all the rebukes of the 48 prophets and seven prophetesses. None of them were successful in inspiring B'nei Yisroel to do teshuvah. But the removal of the ring was. (Megillah 14a)
    At first glance, this passage seems to be delivering a very simple message. Actions speak louder than words. B'nei Yisroel were never able to internalize the messages of the prophets and act upon them accordingly. But when they saw their imminent extermination before their very eyes, they knew there was only one answer.
    But there is a grave difficulty with this approach. The rebukes of the prophets were indeed ignored, on the whole. But the Bais HaMikdash wasn't destroyed overnight. There were many events that led to its destruction, many steps along the way where B'nei Yisroel ought to have taken heed more so than they did to the mere words of the prophets. So one can understand why Achashveirosh's actions sent a stronger message than the rebukes of the prophets. But what about the siege on Yerushalayim? What about the breeching of the walls? In what way were they less inspiring than the removal of the ring.
    To establish a direction on this, we must consider the Maharsha's commentary on the above passage. He asks why the removal of the ring is singled out by the gemara. After all, it could simply have stated that the Haman's evil decree was greater than the prophets. What is the true significance of the removal of the ring? He answers that when a purchase is made between two parties, it is common for the buyer to make a deposit to ensure the seller of his commitment to the transaction. In this case, the buyer would have been Haman. He was "acquiring" the king's consent and approval for his evil plan. And yet, it was Achashveirosh who gave his ring to Haman. This gesture showed Achashveirosh's true feelings towards the Jews and Haman's plan. It was more content than consent, as if he was now asking Haman to carry it out, not allowing it. With the supreme ruler of the inhabited world against them, the Jews realized they were doomed.
    With this important point, we can suggest an approach to answer our question above. The prophets' warnings and calls for repentance leading up to the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash were all during a time when B'nei Yisroel were an autonomous nation in their homeland. They were facing invasion and incursion from forces from the outside. Even when Nevuchadnezzar was banging down the doors and Yerushalayim was ready to fall, this position gave them the false hope to believe that somehow they could simply beat back the invading forces. They were therefore unable to appreciate the true urgency and necessity for teshuvah.
    The circumstances were vastly different during the era of Esther. They were strangers in a strange land.They didn't have their own leaders, their own army or their own land. They were fully aware that they were at the whim of their rulers.  When they saw that that ruler was bent on their destruction, they knew there was simply nothing they could possibly do - except teshuvah!
On the lighter side:
    Of the many mitzvos of the day, the one that tends to stand out in its own way is the mitzvah of drinking. The Beiur Halachah (OC 695), however, offers an understanding of this mitzvah which would severely dampen the festive atmosphere that is normally produced by the extreme dedication of the masses to fulfill this mitzvah to the greatest degree. He says one should drink more than usual and go to sleep. Now where would he get that from? How would you extract that from the words of the gemara? Well, the gemara (Megillah 7b) says "michayev inish l'besumei b'puraia..." It is assumed that puraia refers to Purim. However, in Aramaic, that word is also used to mean bed!!! There you go.
    Some years ago, WV Sen. Robert Byrd delivered a rather boring speech to the senate - one of many throughout his career. I believe it had something to do with judge selection. Sen. Byrd is an anti-semite, a former member of the KKK. But in this speech, he actually goes through the entire story of Purim and tries valiantly to tie it in with whatever he was trying to say. It's actually quite humourous and worth a listen. I've posted it here: . Enjoy!
Something for Tzav:
    Almost every single parsha in the chumash has a tally of the total number of pesukim at the end. (Pekudei does not, for some reason.) There is a striking irony in the tally of parshas Tzav. The total number of pesukim is 96, the gematria of Tzav!!! I do not know the exact origin of these numbers and who is responsible for their inclusion in the chumashim. But perhaps it was done on a year such as this where Purim falls out on parshas Tzav - because there are 97 pesukim, not 96!
Have a happy and healthy Purim and a good Shabbos.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!


Friday, March 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Parshas Zachor

This past Sunday, 2 Adar, was the second Yahrtzeit of my Zadie, R' Yaakov Bulka. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak.
    We are instructed to remember the dastardly acts of the nation of Amaleik in attacking us abruptly upon our exit of Egypt. We are given two instructions, "zachor" and "lo tishkach." To remember and not to forget would certainly seem, at first glance, like superfluous commands. But certainly that cannot be the case. Our requirement to lain Parshas Zachor once a year is actually part of the "lo tishkach" component. The gemara (Berachos 58b) indicates that the memory of someone who has passed on lingers for only 12 months. We must make a special reading of this commandment to make sure we do not forget. What, then, is entailed in the commandment of "zachor?"
    The simplest translation of the word "zachor" is to remember. But it seems that the word can take on an even greater meaning. This is evident in the fourth commandment, "Zachor es Yom HaShabbos." Is it really possible to forget Shabbos? It happens once a week. The Torah is certainly not telling us to simply make sure we don't forget about Shabbos. Rather, as Rashi states there (Shemos 20:8), the word "zachor" clearly indicates an ongoing action. As we are taught in the Mechilta, when we happen upon a nice fruit or other object we should save it for Shabbos. Therefore, "zachor" is a commandment to be constantly mindful. It is not enough to remind ourselves of Amaleik's treachery once a year through this special reading. We must constantly be mindful of the exceptional evil that Amaleik represents. We must study their ways and understand how they are in direct opposition to our belief system and way of life. This is necessary to allow us to be cognizant of the manifestation of Amaleik in current times. Whenever the Torah tells us "zachor," it is demanding of us far more than to simply remember.
Good Shabbos.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!
Eliezer Bulka

Friday, March 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Pekudei

Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible to proceed without making note of the tragic atrocity committed in Mercaz HaRav Kook yeshivah yesterday. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmos the kedoshim who perished in yesterday's attack, HaShem Yinkom Damam biMheira beKarov, as well as for a refuah sheleimah for those injured.
    As we venture into Adar II and enter the stretch run to Purim, one of the prevalent themes is that of the unsung hero. Of course, the ultimate unsung hero of the Megillah is HaShem, whose name does not appear once but whose Divine Providence is visible throughout. There are other unsung heroes such as Hasach, the valiant servant who carried messages between Esther and Mordechai back and forth and who, according to the midrash, was really Daniel. And there was Charvonah. Although, perhaps he does not earn the title "unsung" since we actually sing about him.
    So, as we close out Sefer Shemos, my vote for the unsung hero of Shemos is Chur. We are not told much about Chur personally in the pesukim. According to the gemara (Sotah 11b) Chur came from some pretty impressive yichus - the son of Miriam and Caleiv. When B'nei Yisroel battled Amaleik and Moshe's hands were becoming heavy, it was Chur, along with Aharon, who helped keep them up (17:12) and ensure a victory.
    We need to turn to the gemara once again to learn more about Chur's heroics. In Sanhedrin 7a, the gemara explains Aharon's decision to aid in the creation of the Golden Calf. Seemingly inheriting his father, Caleiv's virtue of standing up for what's right in the face of evil, Chur refused to have any part in the Golden Calf and was tragically murdered. Aharon decided to go along with the plan only because if they were to kill him, the Kohein Gadol, they would have sunk to depths from which they could not recover.
    Finally, as the Mishkan is constructed, we find that the master builder, Betzaleil, is the grandson of Chur. Just as the Megillah has its blatant heroes as well as its unsung heroes, Sefer Shemos has Moshe and Aharon, the main protagonists, and Chur, the unsung hero.
Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (For real this time.)