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Friday, October 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Lech Lecha

In the beginning of the parsha we are taught of Avram and Sarai's sojourn to Egypt due to the famine in Cana'an. It is evident that Lot accompanied the two to Egypt. However, there is no mention of Lot whatsoever in the entire episode until after they leave. What seems puzzling is that even if the Egyptians believed that Avram and Sarai were brother and sister, why did they not suspect Lot of being Sarai's husband? Furthermore, Rashi infers from the singular form of the verb "kevo" (12:14) that Sarai was hidden in a box and only Avram was visible. Should the pasuk not have used plural tense anyway because of Lot? Why does his presence seem to be ignored.
The first question may be answered by Sifsei Chachamim in pasuk 13. There, they ask how it was possible that Avram entrapped the Egyptians and lead them to commit the grievous crime of Eishes Ish. They answer from Chizkuni that they told the Egyptians that Sarai was in fact married but that her husband was overseas. This way they made it known that she was married. And with this we can also understand why they did not suspect Lot of being Sarai's wife either.
To answer the second question, we again turn to Sifsei Chachamim. They ask why Rashi inferred from the word "kevo" rather than the word "vayeireid" in pasuk 10 which is also in singular. They answer that in that pasuk, before Sarai's beauty is addressed, Avram is the only significant figure and the pasuk need only refer to him. However, in pasuk 14, Sarai has already become an integral part of this journey and we would have expected her to pluralize the word "kevo." In that case, since Lot was never an integral part of the journey but rather more of a tag-along, we would not expect him to turn the verb into a plural.
On a related note, the Torah mentions Lot's accompanying Avram twice. First, we are told (12:4) "Avram went as he was instructed by HaShem and Lot went with him." The very next pasuk states "Avram took his wife, Sarai and his nephew, Lot." I have seen a number of commentaries attempt to reconcile the apparent repetition. However, I have not been able to come up with and explanation for the clear discrepency between the two. First, it says that Lot went with Avram. This seems to indicate Lot coming along of his own accord. However, the second pasuk uses the vayikach. This verb is many times interpreted as a "taking with words," involving a certain degree of convincing (which is supported by Onkelos' rendering "vedabar.") Why does it seem at first that Lot came on his own but then it is implied that he needed to be convinced?

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Uncountable Stars

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Friday, October 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Noach

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. As Kli Yakar explains, this actually mirrors the original commands. The first passage begins (6:13) "Vayomer Elokim leNoach." This is introduction of the massive destruction HaShem is soon to bring about. It is fitting that Elokim, denoting strict judgment, is used. The second passage begins (7:1) "Vayomer HaShem leNoach." This passage deals with the instructions to save the animals as well as one last delay for one last chance for teshuvah. So the use of the Name of Adnus, denoting mercy, is used.

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)

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Friday, October 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Bereishis

This coming Sunday, 28 Tishrei, is the Yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, z"l.
This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.

Just after the Torah recounts the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as, we are told about the birth of Kayin and Hevel and almost immediately of the tragic murder of Hevel. There does not seem to be any significant time lapse in between. The only hint given in the Torah is the term "vayehi mikeitz yamim," and it was at the end of (some) days. But there is no elaboration on this ambiguous time span. It seems altogether possible that this episode happened quite soon after the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as.
It is well known that before the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as, the physical realities of pregnancy were quite different, if not non-existent. The gemara (Sanhedrin 38b) recounts that on the day of creation two (Adam and Chavah) ascended to the bed and four (Kayin and his twin, see Tosafos) descended. When the eternal punishments are ultimately doled out to Adam and Chavah, Chavah is told, (3:16) "I will intensify your pain and travail, with great pain you will bear children." As Rashi notes, the travail is the pain of pregnancy and the child-bearing pain is the pain of the birth itself. By inference, these pains did not exist beforehand. If not for the sin of the Eitz HaDa'as, babies would be born smoothly and easily and immediately upon conception. However, the first Rashi on this pasuk seems to get overlooked. The first pain referred to in the pasuk is the "tza'ar gidul banim," the pain of raising children. This too was a direct consequence of the sin.
So what does that tell us about Kayin and Hevel? Tza'ar gidul banim can be understood on two levels – physical and spiritual. Raising children brings with it the obvious challenge of bringing a poor, helpless little being into this world, teaching him and guiding him through everything that we, as adults, take for granted. We start from zero and slowly work our way up. This is indeed no small feat. But equally challenging is the battle to steer one's child in the right path to follow in their ways and in the ways of the Torah.
It is conceivable that both these components of the child-raising challenge were also consequences of the sin. In a pre-sin world children were born fully formed and did not need to be taught the basics of physical life, just as Adam and Chavah clearly did not. This would explain the apparent chronological proximity between the birth of Kayin and Hevel and Hevel's demise. They were also born without the need for their parents to guide them and toil in their upbringing. This is logical as the inclination toward sin was not yet present.
After Adam and Chavah sinned, the physical realities of Kayin and Hevel's birth understandably could not be reversed. But the Yeitzer Hara that was created with that first bite meant that one could no longer assume their children would follow in their ways. Kayin's murder of Hevel made this point painfully clear.
It is interesting to note that HaShem mentions the pains of child rearing before those of pregnancy and childbirth. (In truth, for Chavah, this decree was given after her first two kids were already born so tza'ar gidul banim did come first.) Perhaps this is meant to teach us that the long, arduous battle that is gidul banim does not begin when a child is born. It begins before they are even conceived. From the moment a couple is wed, as they build their home, they are building the very foundation for their children's upbringing. If a couple recognizes the challenge of chinuch as beginning well in advance of childbirth, they are already ahead of the game.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
AstroTorah: The Two Luminaries

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Friday, October 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Koheles

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

From the Sukkah:

Previously, we have discussed the pasuk in Koheles (10:8) "uforeitz geder yishachenu nachash," he who breaches the fence shall be bitten by a snake. The previous discussion revolved around the applicability of this pasuk to one who defies the edicts of our sages and the symbolism and relationship of the fence and the snake. As the Daf Yomi approached the end of maseches Berachos, a story related in the gemara hinted to another possible meaning to this pasuk.

The gemara  tells of of Chanina, the nephew of R' Yehoshua who was declaring leap years and arranging the months even after having moved away from Eretz Yisroel. This is a practice which may only be done in Eretz Yisroel, so long as there is someone there who is worthy of that task. Two sages were sent from Eretz Yisroel to convince Chanina to cease and desist. They were originally greeted with much respect and Chanina declared their greatness to the masses. When the sages began to act in an antagonist manner, Chanina sought to denigrate them and declared publicly that they are empty and worthless. But they retorted that "you have built, and you cannot destroy; you have built a fence and you cannot break it down." The meaning of this statement was that Chanina could not retract his original endorsement of the sages.

We see from the statement made by the two sages that a fence may be used as a metaphor for one's reputation. The "poreitz geder," therefore, is one who seeks to disparage and demean his friend through Leshon Hara. Each and every Jew has his own inherent greatness in one form or another. From the simplest of men to the greatest of Roshei Yeshivah, each has his fence. The speaker of Leshon Hara seeks to tear down that fence. Three pesukim later, a snake is compared to a "ba'al halashon." The gemara (Erchin 15b) explains how one who speaks Leshon Hara is compared to a snake which derives no benefit from attacking prey. Perhaps we can understand the earlier pasuk to suggest that the very individual who breaches the fence is indeed himself the biting snake. 

Perhaps it would be fitting to end of this shtikle, based on the above andin light of yesterday's siyum of maseches Berachos, by pointing out that HaShem is referred to, in the gemara Berachose 46b, as "goder pirtzos b'Yisroel," He who fences the breaches of Israel. May HaShem repair all of our fences and may we all merit to celebrate next Sukkos in Yerushalayim.

Have a good Shabbos. Moadim l'Simchah!

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