The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

View Profile

Friday, July 31

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eschanan

At the beginning of this week's parsha, after Moshe makes his plea to enter Eretz Yisroel, he is told (3:27) to go to the top of the mountain, to lift his eyes west, north, south and east and see with his eyes for he will not cross the Jordan River. Why is he told to see with his eyes? What other part of the body would he otherwise have seen with?

When Moshe delivers his plea, he begins by emphasizing that HaShem had begun to show him His Greatness and Powerful Hand. Surely, Moshe was not referring to having been shown these visually. We know that he was denied that privilege. Here, the term "re'iah" does not refer to physical seeing as it often does, but rather to an experience. Moshe had witnessed and experienced HaShem's greatness. He then asks to be allowed to cross over and "see" the good land, the good mountain and the Levanon. Surely, Moshe wanted more than to see the land. Here again, Moshe Rabbeinu is asking not to see the land but to live it and experience its greatness. HaShem denies Moshe and grants him only to climb the mountain and see the land. That is why he is told to see with his eyes, indicating that he will not be granted the "re'iah" he yearned but rather, only a physical "re'iah" with his eyes.

Have a good Shabbos

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Gematrias off by 1

Friday, July 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim

When Moshe Rabbeinu tells over the story of the war with Sichon, he states first (2:24) that HaShem told him, "Behold I have given over to you Sichon, king of Cheshbon, the Emorite and his land... wage war with him!" Only two pesukim later we are told that Moshe sent messengers to Sichon asking for permission to peacefully walk through his land. But this we already know from parshas Chukas. HaShem's charge for war, however, was not mentioned in Chukas. What is more puzzling, though, is Moshe's peaceful gesture to Sichon after he was explicitly instructed to wage war with him.

Indeed, Ramban makes this very point and insists that the instruction from HaShem came after Moshe's request was vehemently denied as there is simply no other way to explain the pesukim. The reason why this pasuk comes early, writes Ramban, is to convey the message that this was all in HaShem's plans from before hand. HaShem's hardening of Sichon's heart, as mentioned six pesukim later, began before the episode ever took place so that these events should transpire.
The Midrash Lekach Tov, however, suggests that these pesukim are in fact in perfect order. Although Moshe Rabbeinu was told to go to war with Sichon, Moshe learned a lesson from HaShem's own actions with Paroah and the Egyptians. Although they were due to collapse and be utterly destroyed, HaShem gave Paroah ample chances to let B'nei Yisroel go peacefully and quietly. Moshe therefore inferred that although it was HaShem's will to wage war with Sichon, he had a responsibility to first offer a peaceful pass-through.

Have a good Shabbos and may we merit to see this month turn from "eivel" to Yom Tov and witness the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash bimheira beyameinu.

Friday, July 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

A very special Mazal Tov to my dear brother, Binyomin and his wife Shira on the birth of a beautiful baby girl this past Wednesday. Mazal Tov the parents, to the brother and sister, and to the whole mishpacha. (The baby has not yet been named.)

Some time after the victorious military campaign against Midyan, (31:25-47), all of the booty - humans and animals - is counted and divided in two. One half is designated for the soldiers who fought the war and the other half is for the rest of B'nei Yisroel. Of the half that went to the soldiers, one out of 500 was to be given to Elazar. Of the half that went to the rest of the nation, one out of 50 was given to the Levi'im.


There are a number of puzzling nuances in this chapter. First the totals of the sheep, cattle, donkeys and humans are tallied. Then the halves to the soldiers are counted as well as Elazar's portion. The halves to the rest of the nation, although exactly the same as the halves to the soldiers are counted. It is recounted that Moshe distributed the portion for the Levi'im but no count is given. Lastly, Elazar's portion is said to be "from the humans, from the cattle, from the donkeys and from the sheep." The same phrase is repeated with regards to the portion of the Levi'im but the words "mikol habeheimah," from all of the animals, is added.

Netzi"v in Hemek Davar suggests that "mikol habeheimah" includes other species of animals that were brought back that were fewer in number. Since they were fewer than 1000, there would not have been enough to give Elazar even one. Therefore, this phrase is left out of the command of Elazar's portion and these animals' numbers are not significant enough for the Torah to recount.


A fascinating approach is offered in the name of R' Shlomoh HaKohein of Vilna. Elazar's portion is referred to in the pasuk (29) as a "terumah laShem." One of the laws of terumah is that one may not separate from one species as terumah for another. Therefore, Elazar's portion was required to be one out of every 500 of each animal. However, this was not a requirement with the portion of the Levi'im and it was sufficient to give them 1/50 of all the animals combined. That is the meaning of "mikol habeheima." The Levi'im were given 1/50 of all the animals. And that is why the Torah does not go into any detail concerning the division for it was not exact.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Don't miss the mapik!
Dikdukian: To afflict or to answer
Dikdukian: The double modifier
Dikdukian: The interrogative
Dikdukian: They are correct, Sir!
Dikdukian: Whose tribe is it, anyway?

Friday, July 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

NEW FEATURE: Please see the Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup below.

After being informed of his impending death, Moshe requests of HaShem to appoint a new leader who will fill his position when he leaves this world.. He beseeches of HaShem (27:17) that B'nei Yisroel not be "like a flock of sheep with now shepherd."


Malbi"m explains that if a herd of sheep were without a shepherd, they would still consider the goat at the head their leader and follow him wherever he goes. This, however, is a inadequate form of leadership for the goat is simply one of them whom they chose to follow. They a leader who is above them, a higher being who knows what they don't know and sees what they don't see, to guide them.


This was the point Moshe was making. It would not have sufficed to appoint just anybody to fill Moshe's position. Being followed does not make one a leader. This was the error of Korach and his democratic approach to leadership. "All of the nation is holy," he claimed, "and who are you to assume the leadership?" But Moshe was not simply one of the group. He was on a higher level than the rest and thus, a true leader. He was well aware that even in his absence, B'nei Yisroel were in need of such a leader. Therefore, HaShem chose Yehoshua whom He Himself proclaimed to be a "man of spirit," an individual who had spent all his life in Moshe's footsteps and was now ready to fill his shoes.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Yericho / Yereicho
Dikdukian: Achi / Achei
Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges
Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

Friday, July 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas / Balak

This coming week is unfortunately full of Yahrtzeits. This Monday is the Yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. This Tuesday is the Yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander. Thursday, Shiv'ah Asar B'Tamuz, is the Yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

    Towards the end of this week's parsha, B'nei Yisroel are confronted by Sichon and his mighty army (21:1-3). B'nei Yisroel made a vow to HaShem. The vow itself is cause for discussion in and of itself. Whatever it was, HaShem delivered them and they defeated the Canaanites and destroyed their cities. They then named the place of their battle Charmah, destruction.
    Charmah - that should sound familiar. Only two parshios ago, a small group from B'nei Yisroel rose up and charged towards Eretz Yisroel in an attempt to vindicate themselves for the sin of the spies which had doomed them to 40 years in the desert. As we know (14:45) They were quickly wiped out by the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt on the mountain and were beaten unto HaCharmah. Rashi comments that the place was named for the events that transpired there, namely the destruction of that group from B'nei Yisroel. Being that the battle site in this week's parsha was named on the spot, it is safe to assume that these were not the same place.
    I believe the identical names given to these places is surely no coincidence. The Charmah of parshas Shelach was named for a tragic destruction of a group of over-zealous fighters. More importantly, it symbolized that HaShem had put His final stamp on the 40 year decree. It became clear that no act of repentence could possibly overturn the decree. The Aron stayed put and did not go out to accompany the fighters, thus devoiding them of Divine protection. This defeat brought home the reality of B'nei Yisroel's failure.
    It was now many years later. Most of B'nei Yisroel was now made up of those who would merit to enter Eretz Yisroel. This was the first battle that B'nei Yisroel would fight since that fateful defeat at the hands of Amaleik and Canaan. It did not get off to a good start, either. But B'nei Yisroel endured with prayer and devotion and through their prayers HaShem led them to victory over their adversaries. This battle symbolized the turnaround from the previous generation. The dramatic defeat of decades ago made the clear statement to their forebearers that they would not enter Eretz Yisroel. Contrarily, this dramatic victory over Sichon indicated that the conquest of Eretz Yisroel had begun. To accentuate this turnaround, they named the site of this great battle the very same name as the site of the previous battle. The name of the site where B'nei Yisroel were once smitten by the Amalekites and Canaanites was now the very same name of the place where they destroyed Sichon and his army on their way to entering Eretz Yisroel.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka