The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

View Profile

Friday, December 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

            When the brothers come to tell Yaakov that a tragedy has befallen Yosef, they present the bloody coat to him and Yehuda asks (37:32) "Haker na...", do you recognize if this is your son's coat? The gemara in Sotah 10b says that just as Yehudah used this method of informing his father, the same method was used by Tamar to inform him that she was pregnant with his child(ren), (38:25) "Haker na...", do you know to whom these belong? The Ba'al HaTurim quotes this gemara here and he interprets it as a criticism of Yehudah. Just as he informed his father in this 'sneaky' way, instead of telling him outright, Tamar informed him in the same way.

            R' Chaim Kunyevsky, however, interprets it as a praise of Yehudah. Yehudah was careful not to startle his father by simply telling him "Yosef's dead!" but rather broke the news to him gently and lightly, allowing him to come to the discovery on his own. Tamar therefore employed this roundabout manner as  well to inform him that he was the father of her children so as not to shock him and allowing him to discover it on his own.

Have a good Shabbos and a Happy Chanukah!

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, December 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

A couple of Mazal Tov dedications to pass along:
Mazal Tov to my cousin Dov Seliger of London on his marriage to Elki Weiniger of Gateshead this past Wednesday. May they merit to build a Bayis Ne'eman B'Yisrael. And Mazal Tov to the ganse mishpachah.

Mazal Tov to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Sara and Avi Lifshitz on the birth of a baby boy this past Sunday. May they merit "lehachniso bivriso shel Avraham Avinu bizmanah" and to raise him le'Torah, le'Chuppah, ul'Maasim Tovim. And Mazal Tov to the ganse mishpachah.

Before his confrontation with Eisav, Yaakov prays to HaShem (32:12) to save him "miyad achi, miyad Eisav," from my brother, from Eisav. Ohr HaChayim addresses the seemingly superfluous reference to Eisav has a brother. Although Yaakov was primarily afraid for his life, he was aware that Eisav posed a threat to his existence in two manifestations. The obvious threat was a physical one, with Eisav acting with his traditional enmity. However, Yaakov was also afraid of Eisav acting like a brother toward him, befriending him and influencing him spiritually. He therefore asked of HaShem to save him both from the physical perils of an encounter with a hostile Eisav and the spiritual dangers of a loving brother.


Later in the parsha, before Yaakov encounters Eisav, he does battle with an angel through the night until the morning. The Torah describes the battle, (32:25) "vayei'aveik ish imo." Rashi quotes one interpretation of the word "vayei'aveik" as coming from the root "avak," dirt, as the clash caused much dirt to be kicked up in the process. Rashi then offers his own interpretation of the word as being of Aramaic origin connoting fastening or intertwining, referring to the nature of their hand-to-hand combat. Ramban, asserting that a "ches" may be interchanged with an "alef," suggests the true root of the word is "chavak," meaning to hug.


The angel is traditionally considered the "sar," (angelic manifestation) of Eisav. The battle is a paradigm of the eternal battle between Yaakov and Eisav. The battle's conclusion at alos hashachar, dawn, symbolizes the days of Moshiach when the eternal battle will come to an end and Yaakov will emerge victorious. Perhaps we may understand that the different interpretations of "vayei'aveik" are not in conflict. Rather, they are in concurrence with the methods by which Eisav wages war with Yaakov. The angel kicked up dust in his attempt to destroy Yaakov. But the angel also hugged Yaakov in fraternal affection in an attempt to destroy him as a brother as well.


Indeed, we must be constantly aware of the dangers posed by Eisav's evil hatred. At the same time, however, we must be cautious not to be deceived and misguided by our apparent acceptance and comfort in his midst.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, December 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

The Torah recounts (29:32) that Leah named her first child Reuvein because HaShem saw ("ra'ah") her affliction, for now her husband will love her. However, the gemara (Berachos 7b), quoted by Rashi, suggests and alternate explanation of Reuvein's name: "See ("re'u") the difference between ("bein") my son and my father-in-law's son (Eisav) who sold the rights of the firstborn to his brother (yet hated him for it later) whereas my son (Reuvein) had his firstborn rights given to Yosef against his will and still made no objection. Not only did he make no objection, but he tried to save him from the pit." The gemara does not suggest an alternate rationale for the names of any of the other sons of Yaakov. This puzzling comment regarding Reuvein's name is therefore the subject of much discussion.


The GR"A and Maharsh"a suggest possible motivations behind the gemara's contention that the pasuk was not sufficient in explaining Reuvein's name. The GR"A writes that with all the other sons, the reason for the name is stated before the actual name. For instance (29:35) "This time I shall give thanks to HaShem. Therefore, she called his name Yehudah." Reuvein is the only child for whom the reason is given after the name. Therefore, Chazal felt that there must be an additional, unmentioned reason why he was given that name.


Maharsh"a writes that the rationale recorded in the pasuk accounts for the "re'u" part of the name but not for "bein." Due to this inadequacy, Chazal felt that there must be an additional reason behind Reuvein's name which justified both parts of his name. He explains further that the explanation given by the gemara was not a conscious thought in Leah's mind but rather a Divine inspiration based on future events of which she was unaware. The explanation she expressed consciously was that which was recorded in the Torah.


Although these explanations justify the need for an additional reasoning behind Reuvein's name, they fail to reconcile the two. It still remains to be seen why there were two reasons and how they fit together, if at all. P'nei Yehoshua offers a novel interpretation which brings the pasuk and the gemara together. According to the gemara (Bava Basra 123a) Leah, being Lavan's eldest daughter, was destined to marry Yitzchak's eldest son, Eisav. When she learned of Eisav's wicked nature, she cried until her eyelashes fell out. The explication of Reuvein's name in the gemara was used by Leah to show Yaakov that since her son was the diametric opposite of Eisav, it is clear that she was destined to marry him and not Eisav. When Leah said, as chronicled in the pasuk, that now she will be loved by her husband, she was not referring merely to the fact that she gave birth. The future was still unclear. Rachel might have gone on to give birth to many more children than Leah. Rather, Leah was referring to the thoughts expressed by the gemara. Because of Reuvein's name and the symbolism behind it indicating Leah's worthiness as Yaakov's mate, her husband would now surely love her. The pasuk and the gemara together form a compound explanation of Reuvein's name and the reason given in the gemara is not an alternative to that of the pasuk but rather an elucidation thereof.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka