The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

View Profile

Friday, December 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

Tomorrow, 5 Teves, is the Yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr Israel Frankel, o"h.
This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.
    After Yoseif finally reveals his identity to his brothers the atmosphere appears to be rather tense. The tension is apparently broken when Yoseif engages in a tearful embrace with Binyomin, followed by a similar gesture with each of the other brothers (45:14-15). As the pasuk clearly states, only then did the brothers begin to talk with Yoseif. Rashi explains that they were so ashamed that they were left literally speechless. It was only after they saw Yoseif crying and they knew his intentions were peaceful that they were able to speak with him.
    What is puzzling about this comment of Rashi was that Yoseif's revelation was clearly preceded by a very genuine, whole-hearted cry which was heard throughout the land of Egypt. Yoseif was not one to hide his emotions and there did not seem to be a hint of anger in the dialog that followed. Nevertheless, the brothers were still nervous. What seems to have put the brothers at ease was not necessarily Yoseif's crying alone. It was the equal treatment of all his brothers. Surely, they expected Yoseif to deal kindly with Reuvein, who truly attempted to save him, or the other brothers who were less involved. But what about Yehudah, the mastermind behind the sale of Yoseif, or Shimon, who is "credited" with throwing him into the pit. But the pasuk clearly equates all brothers when recounting Yoseif's tearful embraces. Not only was he crying and full of loving, brotherly emotion, it was clear to the brothers that his feelings were equal for all the brothers, regardless of their involvement in his sale. Only then did they feel comfortable conversing with Yoseif. (Perhaps this interpretation can be read into Rashi's comment as well.)

    Another approach is offered by David Farkas in HaDoresh ViHamivakesh:
The words "after this" seem extra. To me this seems to be the precise culmination of the events that occurred so long ago. Before, in 35:5, the brothers were described as "not being able to speak with [Joseph] in peace". Now, after they had seen the Hand of God in all it's awesome clarity, only "after this" were they finally able to speak with their brother! 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Goodnes of Teves by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: NEW BOOKThe Secrets of the Stars by R' Ari Storch
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Ram'seis
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Vayigash by R' Eliyahu Levin

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on


Friday, December 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

                I have always found the text detailing the birth of Efrayim and Menasheh (41:50-52) rather intriguing. We are told that two sons were born to Yoseif before the onset of the years of famine. Perhaps the second one was just before the years of famine, but the first would have been a considerable number of months before then, at the least. Admittedly, this is not a very strong question for a number of reasons. We are then told the names that Yoseif gave his sons and the reasonings behind each. I cannot recall any other instance where we are informed in detail of the birth of two children simultaneously. The pasuk does not state that a son was born to Yoseif, he named him Efrayim and then he had another whom he named Menasheh. Rather, we are told that two sons were born to him.


                This has always led me to believe that Efrayim and Menasheh were actually twins. I have not found any actual evidence in the Midrashim (although I would be very satisfied to find it.) But it would certainly explain how both sons were born just before the years of famine. It would also explain Yaakov's apparent difficulty in discerning between Efrayim and Menasheh. Indeed, it is stated that Yaakov's eyesight had deteriorated. But an older son is usually taller than his younger brother and Yaakov shouldn't have needed his sight to determine that. But if they were twins and were approximately the same height (and perhaps similar appearance) that would explain everything.




                The gemara (Shabbos 21b) explains the origins of Chanukah. After the great miracle, the rabbis instituted an eight day festival of praise and thanks. Although it would appear that the recitation of Al HaNisim is an integral part of this institution, it is not a requisite part of the Birkas HaMazon or davening as one need not repeat if it is forgotten. Indeed, Rambam does not include the laws pertaining to Al Hanisim in the laws of Chanukah but rather, in the laws of Tefillah. This implies that it is merely a general requirement to mention the day, "mei'ein hameora," in the tefillah but not an integral component of Chanukah itself.


                R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l explains that when the Rambam discusses the halachos of Chanukah (3:3), he makes it clear that the lighting of the candles is mitzvah that was instituted as a manifestation of the praise and thanks. We show our appreciation not merely by thanking HaShem but by publicizing the miracle.


                The underlying lesson is that the theme of Chanukah is praise and thanks. I therefore believe that the common reference to Chanukah as the Festival of Light is somewhat misleading. Focusing merely on the lights and not on the message behind them simply misses the point. The name is also likely related to an erroneous assumed connection to the other holiday that often falls around the same time. The Mishnah (Midos 2:3) recounts that the soreg, the wall that marked the point past which gentiles could not pass on the Har HaBayis, was breached in 13 places by the Greeks. The breeches were closed up following the victory over the Greeks. The victory and commemmoration of Chanukah are the resealing of those breeches and our affirmation that we are different than all other nations. This is most important when Chanukah coincides with the end of December as it does this year. We must not lose sight of the true meaning of our holiday - the Festival of Praise and Thanks.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Be Strong
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Mikeitz veChanukah by Eliyahu Levin
AstroTorah: Dreaming of Astronomically Fat Cows by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Was the Menorah a Planetarium? by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: NEW BOOK: The Secrets of the Stars by R' Ari Storch

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, December 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

The Weekly Shtikle is proud to announce the release of a new sefer by AstroTorah author R' Ari Storch - The Secrets of the Stars: The significance of the night sky to the Jewish people and the world.
Depending on your location, it may be available at your local Judaica store and is also available online. Mazal Tov!

When Tamar sends to Yehudah to inform him that she is pregnant from him, the pasuk states (38:25) "And she sent to her father-in-law saying by the man to whom these are, I am pregnant. And she said 'Please recognize to whom these belong.'" The gemara in Sotah 10b learns from here that it is better for one to have himself thrown in a burning fire than to embarrass his friend, from the fact that Tamar did not say outright that she is pregnant with his child and was willing to face death if Yehudah was not prepared to face the embarrassment that such a story would cause.
Mahari"l Diskin is bothered by two points. First, considering the exact form of the message, it does not leave much to figure out that Yehudah is the father. She specifically sent to Yehuda that the father is the owner of these items, and please recognize to whom they belong. That makes it quite obvious. Why would she be begging Yehudah to recognize them if not that she knew that they belonged to him? Second, the word 'vatomer' in the middle of the pasuk seems superfluous.
He answers that Tamar put together a very clever plan. She sent two messengers. With the first she simply sent a message "by the man to whom these are, I am pregnant," without sending the actual items. Then she sent a second messenger with the items and a message "please recognize to whom these belong." This explains the appearance of the word 'vatomer' in the middle, introducing the message she sent with the second messenger. This way, neither of the two messengers could figure out on his own that it is Yehudah who is the father. Only Yehudah could figure it out and thus, she succeeded in saving him from embarrassment.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: 29 or 30? Both. by R' Ari Storch

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, December 9

Re: The Weekly Shtikle - Vayishlach

A special, belated Weekly Shtikle Mazal Tov to my brother, Binyomin, his wife Shira and the ganse mishpacha on the birth of a little girl, Baila, last week.

    When Yaakov sends the angels to Eisav, he commands them to tell him (32:5) "Im Lavan garti", I have lived with Lavan. Rashi adds that garti has the same gematria as tarya"g, 613, and that Yaakov was saying I have lived with Lavan and, nevertheless, "vetarya"g mitzvos shamarti", I have kept the 613 mitzvos. There are two difficulties with this. Firstly, he did not. He did marry two sisters, after all. Secondly, why is he telling Eisav this? How is this supposed to affect Eisav when coming to confront Yaakov.
    My Zadie, o"h, offers the following explanation: We assume that the meaning of the word 'shamarti' is 'I kept'. But this is not necessarily so. We see in next week's parsha, after Yosef had his dreams, the pasuk says (37:11) "ve'aviv shamar is hadavar." Rashi there interprets this to mean that he waited and watched [to see] when it would come. Perhaps this is the meaning of 'shamarti' here as well. Yaakov may not have kept all 613 mitzvos while in Lavan's house. But being outside of Eretz Yisroel, there were many mitzvos he could not keep. In fact, the Ramba"n is of the opinion that all the mitzvos did not apply to the avos while outside of Eretz Yisroel. So for 20 years, Yaakov had been waiting and yearning for his opportunity to once again be in the position to keep the 613 mitzvos. He was telling this to Eisav to show him how long he had been waiting for this moment, and how determined he was and therefore, there will be no stopping him.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
DikdukianThe Great Dishon Confusion
Al Pi CheshbonGoats and Amicable Numbers by Ari Brodsky
AstroTorah: Ominous Eclipse Predictability by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The Gemara's Aliens or Others' Ignorance? by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Yaakov and the Angel by R' Ari Storch

Keep an eye out for The Secrets of the Stars - a new sefer from R' Ari Storch coming to bookstores soon!

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on

Friday, December 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeitzei

    At the beginning of this week's parsha, Yaakov leaves his home to Charan where he would spend the next 20 years. In his famous dream, he sees a ladder with angels ascending and descending. Rashi writes that the angels of Eretz Yisroel were leaving him because they could not leave Eretz Yisroel and the angels of Chutz La'Aretz took over.
    At the end of the parsha (32:2) we find another changing of the guard as Yaakov prepares to return to Eretz Yisroel. However, he has not yet returned to Eretz Yisroel. He is clearly on the eastern side of the Yardein. How were the angels permitted to leave the boundaries of Eretz Yisroel to greet Yaakov as he returned?
    Shaarei Aharon quotes an even stronger question from Panei'ach Raza. In next week's parsha, Yaakov sends angels (32:4 see Rashi) to Eisav. According to the Midrash, these angels were from the angels that he met at the end of this week's parsha. So these angels were sent to Sei'ir which is even furthere from Eretz Yisroel. Panei'ach Raza concludes that since Sei'ir was from the three nations, Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni, that were promised to Avraham, but reserved for the end of days, it was considered part of Eretz Yisroel and the angels were allowed to go there. Charan, of course, was not within any boundaries of Eretz Yisroel so the angels certainly could not have followed him there at the beginning of the parsha.
    Sha'arei Aharon raises an issue with this answer from Panei'ach Raza. The gemara (Bava Basra 91a) discusses the unfortunate circumstances that befell Elimelech and his family (Megillas Rus). It is clear from the gemara that their trials and tribulations were punishment for having left Eretz Yisroel to go to Chutz La'Aretz. However, they only went to Moav which would have been within the "safe zone" that Panei'ach Raza defined. Why then would they be punished?
    Sha'arei Aharon suggests that the three nations promised to Avraham which were not given to us were a result of the sin of the spies. From Avraham until the generation of the midbar, those nations were considered part of Eretz Yisroel. Only afterward was it considered Chutz La'Aretz. Therefore, the angels in Yaakov's time were permitted to travel to those nations but Elimelech was not.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: From his Sleep
Dikdukian: Complete it
Dikdukian: Different Types of Kissing
Dikdukian: Come on, People - Part II
AstroTorah: Did Yaakov Leave the Solar System by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: Yaakov's Lesson on Zemanei HaYom by R' Ari Storch

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,
The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on