The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

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Friday, February 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

Yesterday, 2 Adar, was the third Yahrtzeit of my Zadie, R' Yaakov Bulka. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak.

    A few years ago, I posed the following question and received back a number of suggestions which I would like to share. Additionally, if anyone has any new suggestions, please send them:
    At the beginning of the parsha Moshe is told to collect numerous different materials for the purpose of building the Mishkan. He is told to collect gold, silver, copper and various other materials without any indication as to what they will be used for. Then he is told to collect oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and the Ketores and stones for the Eifod and Choshen. Why is the specific purpose listed for these materials but not for the others?
  1. The relative value of the metals and fabrics was known to be greater and thus their importance was easily understood. It was more difficult for the people to understand the importance of the oil and the spices. They therefore needed to be informed right away of the important tasks for which these items were needed. (This answer would not suffice for the stones, however.)

  2. This week's parsha deals at length with the construction of the Mishkan using the wood, the metals, and the skins. The oil, spices and stones are not dealt with more thoroughly until the next parsha. Since their purpose isn't discussed until later, it is mentioned briefly at the outset.

  3. The other materials were more readily available to B'nei Yisroel. The oil, spices and stones took greater toil to seek out. As in answer 1, they needed to be informed of the special purpose they would serve in order to motivate them to find the materials and bring them in
Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

One of the laws dealt with in this week's parsha is that of damages incurred when one's animal gores another. The pasuk says (21:35) "V`chi yigof shor ish es shor rei'eihu..." The Ibn Ezra explains these words as follows: And if the ox of a man gores the ox of his (this man's) friend. However, he brings an alternative explanation from Karaite by the name of ben Zuta. He interprets: And if the ox of a man gores his (the ox's) friend - another ox. Ibn Ezra rejects this ridiculous interpretation based on the notes of the pasuk which clearly indicate that it should be read otherwise. Besides, adds the Ibn Ezra sharply, an ox has no friends - except for ben Zuta!


It is not often that the commentary of a rishon on chumash will have one rolling in laughter but this one did it to me. However, Ibn Ezra's sharp attack on ben Zuta is not so clear. Daniel Scarowsky, z"l once pointed out to me that we find in the Mishnayos in Bava Kamma Perek 5 (bottom of 48b) "Shor shehaya miskaven l`chaveiro...," an ox that had intention to gore 'his friend.' It seems the ox is not the social outcast the Ibn Ezra had perceived him to be. But Daniel explained that the answer must be that there is a difference between the term "rei'ah," used in our pasuk, and the term "chaveir," used in the Mishna. Chaveir comes from the same root as "chabura," a group. A chaveir is merely one who is a member of the same group. Any two oxen are part of the "ox" group and thus, they are chaveirim. A rei'ah, a term used to denote a more serious friendship, a friendship in the mind, involving real feelings that only a human being can experience and an ox surely cannot... except, of course, with ben Zuta.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

    In this week's parsha, Yisro advises Moshe that he could not possibly handle the entire nation's legal issues on his own. Rather, he should "discern from among the entire people, 'anshei chayil,' God-fearing people, men of truth, people who despise money..."(18:21) However, when Moshe actually goes about choosing the men to take care of the lower-level cases, he chooses "'anshei chayil' from among all Israel"(18:25) The burning question is, what happened to all those other traits that Yisro advised him to seek out? The answer may lie in the definition of 'anshei chayil' which is why I left it undefined.
    First is the rather disheartening opinions of Rashi, Chizkuni and Siforno. Rashi in Devarim 1:15 writes that Yisro instructed Moshe to seek out seven traits and he only found 3. Chizkuni interprets 'anshei chayil' as wealthy men. Of the traits recommended by Yisro, only the trait of wealth was one that could be recognized by one's peers. The other three were "traits of the heart" which one could not discern on the surface and therefore, Moshe was only able to be choosy about the 'anshei chayil.' Siforno writes that Moshe could not find men who possessed all the characteristics recommended by Yisro. Therefore, he decided that the most important one was 'anshei chayil,' well versed, deep, sharp men who are determined to get to the bottom of things and willing to fight for the truth. He reasoned that a God-fearing individual who does not possess this attribute is of inferior quality to a less God-fearing individual who does.
    Ramban and Malbim offer more optimistic views. On pasuk 21, Ramban writes, and Malbim likewise, that 'anshei chayil' simply means men who are fit to lead a large nation, for the word 'chayil' is used to refer to large assembly. The term 'anshei chayil' was used as a general term. The next three attributes were only a description of the three components of 'anshei chayil.' Since 'anshei chayil' was the general and the others the specific, pasuk 25 only refers to the general and we understand from that that all the necessary characteristics were included.
    Netziv in Hemek Davar writes Moshe chose from the scholars of B'nei Yisroel. Therefore, he could take for granted that these great men would be God-fearing men of truth who despise money for this is the way of the Torah. However, the trait of 'anshei chayil,' which Netziv interprets as leaders who can guide the nation (like Ramban) is not necessarily found in all. Therefore, amongst the scholars, it was only this trait that he had to seek out but the rest were assumed.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

It is with abundant joy and gratitude that we announce the arrival of the latest addition to our family - a baby girl born last Shabbos afternoon. We named her Yehudis after my Bubbie (paternal grandmother) a"h.

The timing of the birth of our older two daughters allowed me to focus on the significant role of women in the parsha. For parshas Beshalach, the female heroine is certainly more prevalent in the haftarah than in the parsha itself. Devorah leads B'nei Yisroel as they wage with the Canaanites and then leads the nation in songs of praise.

There is a different form of heroism found in the parsha, however. We are told briefly that following Moshe Rabbeinu's song of praise to HaShem for the great miracles at Yam Suf, Miriam separately leads the women in their own song of praise which mirrored that of Moshe. The one very obvious difference between Miriam's song and Moshe's was that Miriam's was accompanied by flutes. Rashi is bothered why they would even have been in possession of flutes. He writes (based on the Midrash) that the righteous women of the generation were so certain that HaShem would save them, that they prepared flutes while still in Mitzrayim in anticipation of one day singing the praises of HaShem's miraculous deliverance.

While the heroism in the haftarah was much more of a public nature, the heroism of Miriam and the other righteous women of the generation was more quiet and assuming. They expressed their unwavering faith in HaShem in their own private deeds.

The name Yehudis has an interesting history. I imagine many are under the impression that Yehudis is simply the feminine version of Yehudah. But if anything, the opposite is true. The name Yehudis actually predates Yehudah. One of Eisav's wives was named Yehudis bas Be'eiri (Bereishis 26:34). However, the very next pasuk indicates that these wives were hardly role models after whom we would want to name our girls. However, Rashi later (36:2) reveals that Yehudis was not her real name. Her real name was Ahalivamah but Eisav gave her the name Yehudis to fool his father into believing she rejected Avodah Zarah.

Later on in the annals of Jewish history, we find the name Yehudis in the story of Chanukah. As recounted by Mishnah Berurah (670:10) Yehudis was the daughter of Yochanan, the Kohein Gadol. There was a decree that all betrothed maidens must first spend the night with the evil general. Yehudis fed him cheese while he was drunk causing him to doze off at which point Yehudis removed his head, allowing all the women to escape. Ironically, Yehudis seems to have learned this technique - using the power of dairy - from an episode in this week's haftarah. Sisera asks Ya'eil for a glass of water but she gives him milk instead causing him to doze off and the rest is history.

But of course, it is neither of those two Yehudises after whom our Yehudis is named. The virtues of my Bubbie, a"h, were most apparent not in the public arena but in the private confines of the home. Her love and support of my Zaidie, a"h, allowed him to become the leader he was to so many throughout his rabbinic career. The love she showered upon her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the pride she could so vividly express with just a smile were her hallmark. It is our wish that our Yehudis grow up to truly emulate these virtues.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka