The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, October 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Lech Lecha

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tovia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

This week's parsha begins with Avraham, (then known as Avram), being commanded to leave his homeland to a "land to be named later." This is one of the ten tests which Avraham faced throughout his life. R' Ephraim Eisenberg, in the name of his father-in-law R' Mordechai Gifter zt"l asks a rather simple question. Leaving one's homeland to an unkown destination is indeed a difficult venture and worthy of note. But surely it pales in comparison to the challenge that Avram faced in Ur Kasdim where he entered a burning furnace rather than give up his belief in HaShem. Why does the move from Charan get explicit attention while the experience at Ur Kasdim is barely hinted to?

Ramban (46:15) deals specifically with the omission of the Ur Kasdim episode, despite the  great miracle that occured there. He writes that only miracles which are predicted by prophets are recorded in the Torah. R' Gifter addresses the difference between Ur Kasdim and Lech Lecha. He says that if one truly and absolutely embraces a certain set of beliefs, it is easily possible to make this belief such an integral part of one's being that they will give their life in defence of it. Today, we are all too familiar with this reality. To Avram, belief in HaShem was so essential to his existence that giving his life for it came almost naturally. Leaving his home, however, is something that Avram did not necessarily comprehend. After all, he did not even know where he was going. This was not something that came naturally to him. It was therefore a more clear demonstration of Avram's absolute dedication to HaShem's every command, much like the test of Akeidas Yitzchak.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Hot Air Balunatic Time Travel by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Jews are from Jewpiter by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The Uncountable Stars

Friday, October 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Noach

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.
As well, a special (belated) Mazal Tov on the birth of the first baby boy to be named after my Opa, Tuviah Yehudah Straus, born to my cousins Noson and Gila Straus in Eretz Yirsoel.

After HaShem instructs Noach on how to bring the animals into the ark, we are told (6:22) that "Noach did all that HaShem commanded him to do, so he did." Later, (7:5), we are told again that Noach did all that HaShem commanded him. Rashi, obviously bothered by the apparent redundancy, says that this pasuk refers to Noach's coming into the ark (whereas the previous one referred to his gathering of the animals).

R' Shimon Schwab in Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeiva points out that the first pasuk ends with the phrase "kein asah" whereas the second does not. He explains that Rashi tells us in 7:7 that Noach did not enter the ark right away but waited until it actually began to rain because he was of "little faith." Therefore, his coming into the ark was not done with complete devotion to the word of HaShem. The phrase "kein asah" usually refers to a higher level of observance, a more complete carrying out the command. That is why with regards to the bringing in of the animals, which Noach performed completely, we find the words "kein asah." But with regards to the coming in to the ark, in which Noach lacked a little faith, we do not.

It is also of interest to note that the first pasuk uses the word Elokim to refer to HaShem whereas the second pasuk uses the word HaShem but I do not have an answer for that one just yet.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: The Weight of the Teiva (You knew it was coming)
Al Pi Cheshbon: The Constant Rate of Recession (Weight of the Teiva Addendum)
AstroTorah: Noach's Celestial Ark by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Brachah on Space Dirt by R' Ari Storch

Friday, October 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Bereishis

Today marks the seventh Yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, z"l.
This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

When Adam HaRishon is confronted by HaShem following the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as, he argues that (3:12) "the woman that You placed with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate." Rashi comments that here Adam showed his ingratitude to HaShem for providing him with a wife.

It would seem at first glance that the ingratitude was the blaming of his wife for his own misconduct. However, I would like to suggest that the ingratitude was not in what he said but how he said it. The creation of woman came out of the realization that man was no good on his own. Without a soul mate, man was simply incomplete and he needed woman to help him achieve that completion and HaShem provided that for Adam. The word "imadi" used by Adam to mean with me, does not show an appreciation of this quality of woman. Rashi (Devarim 32:39) explains "imadi" as opposing me. By using the word "imadi," Adam showed that he saw woman as an opposing force and did not appreciate her true virtues. With this he showed ingratitude to the gift that HaShem had given him.

The word "li," however, has much different connotations. It implies for me, for my own good, as Rashi explains in many places. That form of the word meaning for me is always used to suggest personal benefit (see Rashi Bereishis 12:1). Had, Adam argued "ha'ishah asher nasata li, hi nasnah li," the woman whom you gave me for my benefit gave me from the tree, I suspect that Rashi's comment would not apply.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Two Luminaries

Friday, October 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini Atzeres / Koheles / Simchas Torah

This past Tuesday was the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Naftali Neuberger, zt"l of Ner Yisroel.
This shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Naftali ben Meir.

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

    In the book of Koheles, which we read tomorrow, Shelomoh HaMelech declares, (10:8) "He who breaches the fence shall be bitten by the snake." The term "poreitz geder," the breacher of the fence, is often used to refer to someone who defies a decree or ordinance of Chaza"l, as indicated by Rashi on this pasuk. The penalty for this defiance is the venomous bite of the snake.
    But perhaps Shelomoh HaMelech is coming to teach us much more than a matter of crime and punishment. Perhaps there is more to this lesson. In the earlier generations, a man walking freely in a proverbial field might have been subjected to certain spiritual dangers. The chachamim therefore put up various boundaries and fences to keep these dangers out. A good example of this would be the laws of muktzah. The chachamim also instituted certain proactive laws, such as the laws of tefillah, to better define the life of a Jew in a manner necessary for the time. As generations pass, the defiant one might approach these fences. He might look over and see no danger in the distance. Questioning the need for these barriers, he breaks down the fences that were built in generations past. But his presumptuous actions prove costly, for he does not see the clear picture his predecessors did before erecting these fences. He might see on his eye level or slightly below and determine that there is no danger. But it is the low-lying creatures, the snakes that he cannot see from behind the fence, that are waiting there to attack.
    Shelomoh HaMelech is teaching us that someone who fails to heed the decrees of Chaza"l, and other sages who have preceded him, assumes that he is fully aware of their deep calculation in establishing these decrees. He doesn't realize that there might be more to them than meets the eye. This is not a punishment. It is simply a matter of fact. We must approach these aspects of our laws with utmost faith and trust that they saw further and deeper than we, lest we stumble and fall prey to the very dangers they set out to protect us from.
    Pesach provides much opportunity for us to explore the prohibitive components of this thought in the many strict prohibitions set forth by the sages to protect the issur of chameitz. One might not understand why we can't eat corn if the Torah told us not to eat chameitz. Nevertheless, we accept it. Sukkos, however, gives us a window into the proactive realm of rabbinic ordinances. The seven days of lulav shaking is not a Torah decree but rather a "zeicher lamikdash," instituted by Raban Yochanan ben Zakai (Rosh HaShanah 30a). The hoshanos ceremony, Hoshana Rabba itself and certainly Simchas Torah are great examples of how our yearly practices have been shaped by the prophets and sages before us.

    But this year, we are able to see the prohibitive aspects during this time as well. Although we are clearly instructed in the Torah to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah and take the lulav on Sukkos, the sages decreed that this should not be done when Yom Tov fallsout on Shabbos. Although the reasoning behind these decrees might be difficult to understand, we follow them to the letter, trusting that the sages knew what lay behind the fence.


     For Simchas Torah, I have another observation without much of an answer to offer. When Moshe blesses the tribes before his passing, nearly all of the blessings are given in the third person - "Yechi Reuvein ve'al yamos," "Shema HaShem kol Yehudah," etc. But there are a number of exceptions. First, the berachah of Levi begins "tumecha v'urecha," in the second person."Semach Zevulun betzeisecha, veYissachar be'ohalecha" would probably also qualify as second person. So why are these blessings different from the others in that manner? (A similar analysis may be done on the berachos in Vayechi.)

Have a good Shabbos and Good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: Kohele's Foolish Orion (by R' Ari Storch.)

Friday, October 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Sukkos

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Opa, Tuvia Yehudah ben Yoel, a'h.

I recently noticed an interesting discrepancy in the mitzvos we perform as part of the holidays of this month. First, we have the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. The Torah doesn't ever identify the shofar by name when talking about Rosh HaShanah. We are simply told it is a "Yom Teruah." However, in other contexts (Matan Torah, Yovel), the shofar is mentioned by name with no explanation as to what exactly it is. We are not told to blow the horn of a ram.

Conversely, when we are taught of the four species to be brought on Sukkos, the traditional names we use for them are not mentioned at all (with the exception of aravos, perhaps.) We are not told to take an esrog, a lulav, hadassim, etc. Rather, we are told to take a "pri eitz hadar," a palm branch, etc. The focus is placed on the actual source of the species as opposed to simply naming them. 

(Although the Sukkah is mentioned without any detail as well, I don't think this fits the criteria of this group since it is not a singular object but a construction of many objects.)

So we are left to ponder why this is so. Unfortunately, I do not have a convincing answer at this point so I will have to leave this at "something to discuss" status. One approach that crossed my mind was that the essence of the shofar is not necessarily where it came from  (despite the ties to Akeidas Yitzchak) but the sound it produces. With the four species, however, the source of the actual species is of great significance and defines their very essence as is somewhat evident from last year's Sukkos shtikle. But I anxiously await a better suggestion.

Have a good Shabbos and good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup: