The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, March 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayikra

Today marks the 3rd yahrtzeit of my dear Bubbie, after whom our baby girl is named. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

In this week's parsha, we are taught the procedures involved in the various sacrifices. The Kohanim, the ones performing most of the duties, are almost always referred to as "B'nei Aharon HaKohanim."  In one instance, however, with regards to the placing of the fire on the Mizbei'ach, (1:7) the term "B'nei Aharon HaKohein," is used. Initially, I understood that the reference to the Kohanim was reconstructed. Instead of being referred to as "The sons of Aharon," COMMA, "The Kohanim," here they were simply referred to as "The sons of 'Aharon HaKohein.'" The sudden change was quite puzzling.


However, a number of commentaries comment on this anomalous structure. The sefer Moshav Zekeinim suggests that the placing of the fire took special skill and thus, a specially appointed Kohein was needed. R' Chaim Kunyevsky writes that the other procedures were in fact performed by numerous Kohanim whereas this particular one was performed only by one. Clearly, they are understanding that this term is merely a singular version of the common term used to refer to the Kohanim. "HaKohein" refers to the Kohein himself, not to Aharon as I had suspected.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, March 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayakheil/Pekudei

In this week's parsha, (35:30-35) Moshe Rabbeinu informs B'nei Yisroel that Betzalel will be in charge of overseeing the construction of the Mishkon. He states that HaShem has instilled in him a special spirit of wisdom and understanding. After explaining this wisdom in more detail, Moshe adds (35:34) "Ulhoros nasan belibo," and to teach He has placed in his heart. It was not sufficient for Betzalel to be familiar with all the crafts necessary for the construction of Mishkon. He needed to be able to teach it to others so that they may participate as well.


In examining this pasuk more thoroughly, there are two very important lessons that are taught in this seemingly simple phrase. The first is that no wealth of knowledge ever guarantees the ability to teach. Betzalel was brought to the highest levels of knowledge and understanding but that was not enough. In addition to the wisdom vested in him by HaShem he also required a separate Divine inspiration for the ability to teach. The art of teaching is a necessary wisdom unto itself. This point is made by the Ohr HaChayim and R' Moshe Shternbuch on this pasuk.


This pasuk also teaches us that while other areas of wisdom are specific to the brain, the essence of teaching is in the heart. It is not even enough for one to spend day and night learning how to teach. No matter how much knowledge one is able to place in his brain, without a teaching heart it just doesn't work. Therefore in addition to enriching Betzalel's intellect with the wisdom and knowledge to perform all the necessary tasks, HaShem instilled in him all the necessary components to make the training process as smooth as possible.

Chazak, chazak venischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, March 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Sisa

Yesterday was the first Yahrtzeit of Moshe Fuller, z"l, of Ner Yisroel. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Moshe ben Chaim Tzvi.

    In pasuk 32:26, following the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe calls out "Mi l'haShem elai!" Who is for HaShem, come to me! And all of shevet Levi joined him. They then proceeded to wipe out all those who participated in the worshiping of the Golden Calf. It is known that the sinners in the episode of the Golden Calf represented a small minority of Bnei Yisroel (3000 men were killed). How is it then, that only the tribe of Levi joined Moshe in carrying out the punishment? B'chor Shor suggests that there were really many others from other tribes who did not worship the calf and joined Moshe. The reason that Levi was singled out by the pasuk is, as the pasuk says "kol b'nei Levi", all of the sons of Levi. It was only Levi whose tribe completely separated itself from this great sin and joined Moshe in carrying out justice. Each of the other tribes had at least part of the tribe worshiping the calf.
    Netzi"v in Hemek Davar suggests a very novel interpretation. Moshe and his followers were about to carry out a great Mitzvah. We know that a "sheliach mitzvah" is protected from any damage. This, however, does not apply in a case where there is evident danger (see Kiddushin 39b). How then could Moshe bring people together to carry out this task which surely included the danger of being killed by a Golden Calf worshipper defending himself? Netziv suggests that this applies only to those who do a mitzvah in the regular, natural manner that humans perform mitzvos, with at least some sort of a personal interest, be it a reward in this world, or be it a reward in the next world. However, someone who has dedicated himself solely to the service of HaShem with the lack of any personal desires, even in the case of evident danger, need not fear to perform any mitzvah. Therefore, Moshe exclaimed "Mi l'haShem, elai!", Who is for HaShem and HaShem only. Who has dedicated himself completely to the service of HaShem. Only shevet Levi, who were not subjected to servitude by the Egyptians but rather left alone to serve as spiritual leaders (Ramban), only they were able to reach this level of service of HaShem. Therefore it was only they who were on the spiritual level to join Moshe in carrying out justice in such a dangerous manner.
    R' Yosef Miller, of Yeshivas Merkaz HaTorah in Yerushalayim, in his sefer Hadras Kodesh, suggests that this idea may be used to answer a famous question in Parshas V'zos haBerachah. In Levi's blessing it says "ubris'cha yintzoru". Rashi comments that this refers to the fact that while Bnei Yisroel did not perform the mitzvah of Bris Milah in the desert, shevet Levi did. The obvious question is that the reason why B"Y did not do Milah in the desert is because there was a specific Northern wind that was not present in the desert which made a Bris a very dangerous operation. How then could Levi go ahead and give their kids a Bris? With this idea of the Netziv, however, we can understand that shevet Levi were on a level higher than the rest of the nation. They could go ahead and perform the mitzvah of Bris Milah without any fear of the inherent dangers.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Monday, March 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

There are certainly no shortage of interpretations out there for the exact understanding of the "ad delo yada" obligation on Purim. However, I would like to share yet another which R' Kulefsky, zt"l, would unabashedly repeat nearly every year in the name of the Nesivos. R' Kulefsky would often repeat certain vortlach in their applicable time over and over but would make it clear that he was well aware of the repetition but that it was nevertheless worthwhile for all who have heard it to hear it again.

As an introduction, the gemara (Pesachim 50a) states that whereas in this world, we make the berachah of "Hatov veHameitiv" on joyous news and "Dayan HaEmes" on unfortunate, saddening  news, in the world to come we will only make the berachah of "Hatov veHameitiv." The Tzelach asks, what unfortunate saddening news will there be on which to recite "Hatov veHameitiv?" Rather, we will look back in retrospect at the events in history we regarded as sorrowful and realize the truth purpose of each and  every one and realize that it was all for the good.

In fact, even for us in this world, a certain degree of this realization can be reached. The sefer Orchos Tzaddikim (Sh'ar HaSimchah) describes the highest levels of joy, citing the gemara (Berachos 48b and others) which states that just as we recite a blessing on the good, we must recite a blessing on the bad and unfortunate. He understands that when the gemara says "kesheim," just like, it means that we should recite a blessing on the bad with the same degree of joy and happiness as that which we do on the good.

In the story of Purim we read about the evil decree of Haman, a mournful moment for the people of that time. And yet, that decree was a catalyst to unprecedented levels of teshuvah and the ultimate deliverance from that imminent threat. And so, suggests Nesivos, the obligation to rejoice on Purim until one does not decipher between "cursed Haman" and "blessed Mordechai" is not to say we should lose our ability to judge and not see the difference between them. Rather, we should reach a level of joy such that, with the utmost clarity, we realize that there is no difference and that even the gravest calamities that befall us are part of a greater good.

We certainly live in turbulent times on many fronts. (Have there ever been times that weren't turbulent?) Our nation faces threats to its very existence at nearly every turn. The global economic crisis has taken its toll on the masses and seems to only be getting worse. But perhaps these dire times present an even greater opportunity to use this Purim to strive to reach the realization that everything HaShem does is for the good.

Chag Purim Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka


Friday, March 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh

In general, of the two parshios that deal in depth with various technical details, parshas Terumah is dedicated to the architectural detail of the Mishkon and related structures whereas parshas Tetzaveh deals primarily with details relating to the Kohanim. This exception that proves this rule is found at the end of this week's parsha. After all the procedures pertaining to the Kohanim have been discussed, the Torah details the golden altar that was placed inside the Mishkon. One would have expected this to be dealt with in parshas Terumah, when the Torah dealt with the Menorah and Shulchan. Instead, it is mentioned here.


Meshech Chachmah offers an explanation for the placement of the instructions for the golden altar. Every one of the structures and utensils had a specific purpose. If any of the structures were missing, their purpose could not be performed. If the Menorah was not present, the lighting could not take place. In the absence of the outer altar, the sacrifices could not be slaughtered and offered. A Kohein certainly could not perform any service without the proper garments. In this, the golden altar differed. The principal function of the golden altar was for the "ketores," incense. The gemara (Zevachim 59) teaches that if the altar is not present, one may still offer the incense in its proper place. The golden altar is excluded from all the other components to show its uniqueness in this respect.

The GR"A offers an insight into this issue which may shed some light on the reasoning behind the above law. The primary purpose of the entire Mishkon undertaking was for HaShem's Divine Presence to rest on the nation. This is stated clearly at the very beginning (25:8) of the instruction and stated once again at the end (29:45) "And I will dwell amongst B'nei Yisroel..." Everything within these two statements shared the same purpose. However, the golden altar, which is mentioned afterward, was not for the purpose of affecting the Divine Presence. The principal role of the golden altar was atonement. The daily incense was an atonement offering. The incense was also used in emergency situations to halt the breakout of a plague. Indeed, it is here that we learn that the Kohein Gadol was to sprinkle blood on the golden altar once a year on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. Since the golden altar served a different purpose than the rest of the components of the Mishkon, it is separated and dealt with on its own.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka