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Friday, February 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh / Purim

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

As we have discussed on a number of occasions, the juxtaposition of certain parshios to certain events in the calendar is no coincidence and there is often an underlying message to be found. In almost every non-leap year, the shabbos before Purim, Shabbas Zachor, falls out on parshas Tetzaveh. The only time it does not it is Terumah. There must be a connection between these parshios and Purim.

As we know, HaShem's name is completely missing from the text of the megillah. But I find that in addition to that, the megillah also lacks a strong historical context. From the text itself, we know very little about the story's place in history, what preceded it, what followed it, and even some explanation of the events recounted. Who was Achashveirosh? What was his relationship with the Jews? What was his party all about? Perhaps the only inkling of historical  context in the megillah is the brief biography of Mordechai, in which we are told that he was part of the final exile at the end of the first Temple. For "the rest of the story," we must turn to our sages.

Over the course of the megillah, we go to great lengths to demonize the evil Haman, and rightfully so. We make loud noises at the mere sound of his name and then stick in a good curse for him and his wife in the Shoshanas Yaakov song that follows the reading. But what about Achashveirosh? Where does he fit in? There's no mention of him in the song. And we certainly don't make noise for him. (Would the reading ever end if we did?) But we are told in the gemara (Megillah, see that the Jews had already begun rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash. It was Achashveirosh who put an abrupt halt to the reconstruction. There was a well-known prophecy by both Yirmiyahu and Daniel that the Jews would go through 70 years of exile after which they would return to Eretz Yisroel and rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. Belshatzar, a previous ruler, had come to the conclusion that 70 years had passed and rejoiced that the prophecy would not come true. His calculation was erroneous and he was dead by the next morning. Achashveirosh made some adjustments to the calculation and determined that now according to his enhanced calculation, which would also prove to be erroneous, the 70 years had passed and there was no more hope for the Jews. This was the cause for celebration. The "keilim mikeilim shonim" (1:7) were in fact the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash. 

It is understandable that Esther could not have written anything in the megillah itself that would shed a negative light on her husband, the king. But the midrashim make it quite clear what Achashveirosh was all about. Perhaps the juxtaposition of parshios Terumah and Tetzaveh are meant to help preserve that historical context. We spend two complete parshios detailing the beauty and the splendor of the Mishkan and the men who were tasked with doing its work. That special beauty was even enhanced in the edifice constructed by Shelomoh to be the permanent dwelling place of the Holy Presence. After nearly 70 years since its destruction, we were ever so close to getting it back. The beauty and the splendor would return once again. The story of Esther chronicles the hurdles and obstacles we needed to overcome to finally reach that moment.

Have a good Shabbos and a Purim Samei'ach!
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


Friday, February 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

This past Tuesday, 2 Adar, was the yahrtzeit of my Zadie, R' Yaakov Bulka. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chayim Yaakov ben Yitzchak.
Just a couple of hours ago, I returned from a ceremony at Ottawa City Hall where my father was awarded the key to the city. (Read more here.) This week's shtikle is also dedicated with a special Mazal Tov to my father on this special occasion.

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

    In this week's parsha, as part of the description of the construction of the Mishkan, the beams are described (36:29) as being paired at the bottom as well as the top. The terminlogoy used  (26:24) is, "and they shall be 'soamim' on the bottom and together they shall be 'samim' on top." The words "toamim" and "tamim" mean essentially the same thing. They are to be paired. As Rashi describes, the beams had to be flush with each other from the bottom to the top and were joined together with a ring on top. Why is a different word used for the bottom and the top?
    When Rivkah gives birth to Yaakov and Eisav, the pasuk (Bereishis 25:24) states "behold there were 'somim' in her womb." Rashi notes that here the word "tomim," which is missing an aleph, is used whereas when Tamar gives birth to Peretz and Zerach (Bereishis 38:27) the word "te'omim" (with an aleph) is used. The reason given is that Tamar's two children would both grow up to be rigthteous men whereas one of Rivkah's children would grow up to be an evil man. The word "te'omim" written in full denotes a greater similarity between the twins. When it is written missing an aleph, it denotes twins which are not so identical.
    If one were to survey the beams of the Mishkan on the bottom and the pegs that held them in place they would see a relatively uniform pattern as they went around. However, they might notice a slight change when they observe the tops of the beams. The rings that held the beams together on top rested in an indentation made in each beam. Joining the corner beams was a little more difficult. Rashi (26:24) describes the process which ultimately required the indentation to be in a different spot in that beam. The picture books on the Mishan make this more clear. Here is an example. Perhaps this is why the word "tamim" is used to describe the pairing of the beams on top. The pairing did not appear uniform throughout. But for the pegs that held the beams in place on the bottom, the word "toamim" is used to denote their uniform appearance.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Amudei HeChatzeir
Dikdukian: Venahapoch hu
Dikdukian: Kikar Zahav
AstroTorah: Invisible Signs from Heaven by R' Ari Storch

Friday, February 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

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

In this week's parsha we are taught of the prohibition against the accepting of bribes as well as the drastic ramifications thereof. Here we are told that (Shemos 23:8) "bribery blinds the open-eyed and perverts the words of the righteous." In a very similar pasuk in Shofetim we are told that (Devarim 16:19) "bribery blinds the eyes of the wise man and perverts the words of the righteous."  The word "pikchim" is replaced with "chachamim."


The GR"A explains that the references to a judge as a "pikei'ach" and a "chacham" pertain to two separate requirements a judge must meet. The word chacham always refers to Torah wisdom. A judge must always be aware of the pertinent laws and know how to judge a case in accordance with the Torah. However, there may be times when the law will dictate a certain judgement in a case, but the judge senses an element of corruption in the testimony. Indeed, the gemara (Shevuos 30b) teaches that in such a case, a judge should go with his senses. For this, a judge must be worldly and understand the people in order to accurately analyze the testimony. This is the meaning of a "pikei'ach."


To explain why each pasuk is found in its specific parsha, it is interesting to note that the names of the two parshios are very similar. Mishpatim refers principally to the laws by which we are governed. Therefore, the commandments tend to address the nation more generally. Shofetim refers to the individuals who are to carry out those laws. Therefore, the prohibition against bribery is addressed to the chachamim only, while the reference in our parsha appears to address everyone, at least those who wish to be regarded as a pikei'ach.


There is another discrepancy between the two pesukim that the GR"A does not deal with.  The pasuk in Shofetim refers to the "eyes of the chachamim" whereas with regards to "pikchim" in our parsha there is no mention of the eyes, rather the "pikchim" will be blinded. Perhaps this may be understood based on the GR"A's explanation. That which is seen by the eyes represents a certain degree of reality. As the saying goes, "seeing is believing." Likewise, the Torah laws that govern the judgement are absolute, undebatable truths. Nevertheless, a bribe can distort one's perception of reality to the point that he is blinded even to these truths. This is reflected in the pasuk in Shofetim.


The vision of a "pikei'ach" is much more abstract. His perception of the testimony is his own judgement call. There are no absolute rights and wrongs. Thus, the blinding is less severe. For this reason, the "pikei'ach" is not referred to with regards to his eyes like the "chacham" is.


Furthermore, we find that the chachamim are referred to (Vayikra 4:13) as "eini hakahal," the eyes of the community. In a spiritual sense, the chachamim represent the eyes of the nation, leading and guiding us with their vision. For this reason, the eyes are mentioned regarding the chachamim and not the pikchim.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: The Ox and his Friend
Dikdukian: Answer vs. Torture
Dikdukian: Give it to me
Dikdukian: Ha'isha viladeha
AstroTorah: New Rules of Physics or Translating Chumash by R' Ari Storch

Friday, February 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

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

    At the beginning of this week's parsha we are once again given the reason behind the naming of Gershom : "Ki ger hayisi b'eretz nochriah", because I was a stranger in a strange land. Here the explanation of Eliezer's name is given as well, "Ki elokei avi b'ezri, vayatzileini micherev Paroah", apparently referring to Moshe's escape from execution at the hands of Paroah. At first glance, these names seem to be out of order. The cause for the naming of Gershom seems to have been preceded by that of Eliezer. Moshe was a stranger in Midyan after he escaped from the hands of Paroah. My Rebbe from Eretz Yisroel, R' Yeshaya Greenwald suggests that perhaps there is a different explanation behind Gershom's name. In the years leading up to Gershom's birth, Moshe realized that although he seemed at home in Egypt as a prince and leading quite a good life, he was nevertheless a stranger in a strange land. So "Ki ger hayisi..." is in fact referring to Moshe's years in Mitzrayim rather than those in Midyan. This explanation is supported by the fact that Moshe says "Ki ger hayisi," in the past tense, even while he is still living in Midyan (2:22).

    Another interesting point concerning the naming of Gershom and Eliezer: For Gershom it says "vesheim ha'echad Gershom". And than for Eliezer, "vesheim ha'echad Eliezer". One would have expected the use of ordinal numbers such as "Sheim Harishon... vesheim hasheni" in this case. Why are they both referred to as "ha'echad"? R' Greenwald suggests that the answer may lie in the Midrash on the pasuk (2:22) "Vayoel Moshe" which states that Moshe made a pact with his father-in-law to give his first son to Avodah Zarah (or some manifestation thereof.) Therefore, Gershom was the "ben ha'echad," the one son for Avoda Zarah and Eliezer was the "ben ha'echad" laShem.

    Perhaps the answer to the second question could be used to answer the first. Since Moshe had this pact with Yisro, he didn't want to mention any specific praise of HaShem which would convey to Yisro that he had not kept to the deal. Therefore, Gershom was given a more generic, religion-less name while Moshe waited until his second child to mention the praise of HaShem for saving him from Paroah's sword but it indeed did come first.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Ram veNisa by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Letzais
Dikdukian: Many who Fear God