The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

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Friday, April 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria/Metzora

    Most of this week's parshios deal with the laws of the metzora. We are told (13:46) that the metzora must be sent outside of the camps and must dwell alone, "badad yeisheiv." The commentaries note that tzora'as comes as a punishment for loshon hora, which comes as a result of engaging in idle chatter with one's friends and others. Therefore, the punishment is fitting that the metzora must be 'excommunicated' so he can not converse with his friends and thus, surely can not tell any more loshon hora. This will give the opportunity to examine his sins and repent. According to this reasoning, it would seem that the metzora should be in total solitary confinement, without even the company of other metzoraim. This, however, is the subject of much discussion.

    The first source that must be considered is an incident in Navi which is, in fact, the haftarah for Parshas Metzora which we will not be reading this year. In Melachim II 7:3 we are told that there were four metzoraim at the gateway. In the events that ensue it is clear that these men were together. However, this may not be brought as a proof one way or the other for a number of reasons. First, Chaza"l tell us that these four men were Geichazi and his sons. In the sefer Nachalas Shimon (by Rabbi Shimon Krasner of Ner Yisroel) it is pointed out that if a metzora would require absolute solitary confinement it would be because it follows the laws of "nidui," excommunication, in which no one may be within four amos of the "menudeh." However, in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 3l4:2) it is stated clearly that even one who is in nidui may be with his kids. Additionally, many commentaries point out that this particular instance of tzora'as is anomalous in that it was the result of a curse from Elisha that the tzora'as of Na'aman (see this week's haftarah) should inflict Geichazi and his sons.

    Rashi on the words "badad yeisheiv" writes that "other 'temai'im' should not dwell with him." This might seem to indicate that he does in fact require solitary confinement. However, Rashi's intent is made more clear in his commentary on the gemara in Pesachim which Rashi is quoting here. There it is clear that the meaning is that other "types" of temai'im such as zav and tamei meis may not dwell with the metzora but it would seem that other metzoraim are allowed to dwell with him.

    Nachalas Shimon on Melachim II deals with this issue at length and the conclusion is that it seems to be permissible. Tzafnas Pane'ach, as well, reaches the conclusion that it is allowed. Malbim here also writes that a metzora may dwell with other metzoraim and he fits into the precise definition of the word "badad," that it implies a separation but not an absolute confinement for we see the word badad referring to an entire nation at once (Bemidbar 23:9).

    Nevertheless, the sefer Minchah Belulah writes that metzoraim may not dwell with each other for they are not equals.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, April 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

Apropos for parshas Shemini coming on the heels of Pesach (and on the eighth day of the Omer, no less )

    At the end of the parsha, the pasuk (11:45) says "Ki ani HaShem hamaale eschem..." Rashi comments that in all other instances it says "hotzeisi" but here it says "hama'ale" and quotes from Tana d'Bei Eliyahu that the term ma'ale implies that this mitzva itself is a ma'ala, a virtue in and of itself, for which B'nei Yisroel merited exodus from Egypt. The obvious inference is from the change of terminology from 'yetzia' to 'aliyah'.
    However, perhaps there is another inference to be made. In all other instances, the word "hotzeisi" is used. It is in past tense. Here, had the pasuk said "asher he'eliesi" then there would not have been such a strong implication that this mitzva is a ma'ala but only that HaShem took us out and therefore we should keep it. Now that it is written in the present tense, it implies that with this mitzva HaShem brings us up to a higher level and it is a virtue for us. The Midrash is clearly not making this inference but it may still be used to arrive at the same conclusion.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Tuesday, April 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Shevi'i Shel Pesach

The seventh day of Pesach fits perfectly into the scheme of the chag. We begin by celebrating the grand miracles of the actual exodus from Mitzrayim and we end by celebrating the miracles at Yam Suf. However, there is a bigger picture. Our counting of Sefiras HaOmer beginning on the second day of Pesach ties Pesach to Shavuos such that the 50-day period constitutes one long chag celebrating Yetzias Mitzrayim and the purification process which culminated in Matan Torah. How does Shvi'i shel Pesach fit in to this big picture? It is not Yom Tov of itself like Shemini Atzeres but it is a Yom Tov nevertheless. What was the necessity of the events that transpired at Yam Suf and what part do they play in the progression towards Matan Torah?

In parshas Vayeira we have discussed the purpose of the warning to Lot and his family not to look behind them when they fled Sedom and why his wife became a pillar of salt when she did so. It was not enough to leave Sedom. They had to leave and never look back. Looking back upon the destruction indicated Lot's wife's inability to truly remove herself from her environment.

We find that there was a similar problem with certain factions in B'nei Yisroel who still thought they were better off in Mitzrayim. This is made evident by the arguments presented as the Egyptians approached. B'nei Yisroel had physically left Mitzrayim but their past was still fresh in their minds, to the point that they were not convinced that they were currently in a better situation.

There is apparently excessive emphasis put on the destruction of the Eqyptians at Yam Suf. Moshe declares (14:13) "as you have seen Mitzrayim today, you will cease to see them ever again." And as the Midrash recalls, the dead Egyptians were washed ashore to make it clear to B'nei Yisroel that they had not survived the ordeal. It was seemingly insufficient for B'nei Yisroel to merely escape the clutches of the Egyptians to safety on the other side of the sea. The Egyptian army needed to be destroyed and B'nei Yisroel needed to bear witness to their destruction. Perhaps this was all necessary as a means of closing the chapter of Mitzrayim in our history. We left a nation which had been ravaged by the ten plagues and brought to its knees. But it was still a viable nation, one worth returning to if the situation were to necessitate it. But the complete decemation of the army at Yam Suf dealt the finally deathly blow, as if to say, "the Mitzrayim you once knew is no longer and there is no going back."

In order for us to properly and wholeheartedly look to the future, it was necessary for us to completely detach ourselves from the past, to know that we may never look back and must only look forward. This allowed us to spend the remaining days to build and to grow as we approach Matan Torah.

Have a good Yom Tov!

Eliezer Bulka

Monday, April 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Birkas HaChamah and Erev Pesach

I simply could not let this momentous occasion pass by without a shtikle. But in addition to that, this shtikle inaugurates my latest blog, Astro Torah, whose topics will include just about anything to do with zemanim. I plan to add more content soon. Please check back regularly.

One would have been hard pressed to escape all the "media hype" over the upcoming recitation of Birkas HaChamah. It's everywhere your turn. It's on various informational internet sites with explanatory videos and pictures. It is the subject of a number of worthy new publications as well as shiurim around the globe. And of course, let's not forget all of those tzedakah mailings. And it is with good reason. After all, this only happens once every 28 years. Of course, this year's recitation is yet more rare. We are required to recite the berachah amidst all of the hustle and bustle of Erev Pesach preparations. The last times this occurred were 1309 and 1925 and it won't happen again before the year 6000.So what is the significance of it all?


There are 13 individual beliefs that are delineated as the tenets of faith. However, there are two individual assertions of our belief in HaShem that are repeated in our daily and weekly routines at a much greater frequency. We are commanded to remember HaShem's deliverance of our forefathers from Mitzrayim every day of the year, at least twice a day. Additionally, the kiddush and tefillah for each Yom Tov incorporate a reference to the holiday as "zecher litziyas Mitzrayim."


The recalling of Yetzias Mitzrayim is so prevalent that many are troubled by the specific commandment to tell over the story on Pesach night. After all, how is this night different from all other nights? One thing is for certain, the mitzvah on Seder night takes on a different flavour from that which we find the rest of the year. Instead of a brief mention of Yetzias Mitzrayim, we are required to delve deeply into the story, to realize all of the wondrous miracles HaShem performed for us and to express our gratitude in many ways.


Another fundamental belief which appears nearly as frequently in our liturgy is the belief in HaShem as the Creator of the world. It is indeed the very essence of Shabbos which, although it only comes once a week, it is meant to be the focal point of our week. Our entire week is essentially a "zikaron le'maasei Bereishis." Interestingly, though, we find ourselves commemorating HaShem's day of rest without nearly as much attention given to the actual creation. Although Rosh HaShanah is meant to commemorate the creation of Man, it is so saturated with other various themes, it can easily get lost in the mix. Birkas HaChamah, recited when the sun begins a new cycle and the vernal equinox occurs at the same time in the week as it did during creation, demands of us to reflect on the creation itself and to give us renewed appreciation of the creator.


The timing of this year's Birkas HaChamah allows us to, in a matter of mere hours, take two of our most fundamental and basic assertions of faith in HaShem and elevate them and express them in new and special ways.


It is also worthy of note that in a year such as this, not only does the equinox occur at the same time of the week as it did when the sun was created, but the days of Pesach also fall out on the same days of the week as they did the year of Yetzias Mitzrayim.

Have a Chag Kasher ve'Sameiach!

Eliezer Bulka


Friday, April 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav

    At the end of this week's parsha, we are described the ceremony of the consecration of the Kohanim. As part of the proceedings, Moshe brought three korbanos: a chatas, an olah, and the eil hamiluim. In the pasuk that deals with the slaughtering of the last korban, the note on the word "vayishchat" is the unique shalsheles, found only in four places in the Torah and three others in the rest of NA"CH.

    R' Chaim Kunyevsky explains why specifically this of the three korbanos has a shalsheles on the word "vayishchat." He says he saw in a sefer that a shalsheles denotes an extension or elongation of whatever word it is on. For instance, as Sedom was about to be destroyed, Lot lingered and did not go along with the angels. The pasuk (Bereishis 19:17) says "vayismahmah," with a shalsheles, for he lingered excessively.

    Here, the other two korbanos required only a spilling of the blood on the mizbeiach. The last korban, however, in addition to the spilling of blood on the mizbeiach required also the putting of blood on the thumb and big toe of Aharon and his four sons. Therefore, Moshe required to deal at greater length with the slaughtering of this korban so that he could make sure enough blood was gathered for all the necessary tasks. This is why there is a shalsheles on the word "vayishchat."

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka