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Friday, August 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shofetim

A hearty Weekly Shtikle Mazal Tov to my brother Binyomin and my cousin Nosson Dovid Jakobovits and their families on the brisos of their sons this week - both of whom were named Tovia Yehuda after my Opa. And with yet another boy born yesterday to my cousins here in Baltimore, Mazal Tov to the Sheliahsabou - Davidi - Perlman - Jakobovits families.

With all these boys being born I thought it would be a fitting occasion to quote, for the first time - hopefully first of many, my very own son, Efrayim, and a clever insight he had.

In a book of meshalim on the parsha, it is told that a group of makilim once produced a satirical play about a Jewish army that was led to war according to the guidelines spelled out in this week's parsha.(20:5-8). The officer first announced that anyone who recently built a new house should return, upon which a thousand men got up and left the battlefield. The same occurred after the following announcements regarding having planted a vineyard or having recently betrothed a future wife. In the end, only the Vilna Gaon and the Sha'agas Aryeh remained.

The Brisker Rav, upon hearing of this production, commented that it was completely accurate, only that they left out the most important part - that they win the war!

Efrayim took issue with the way the process was related in the play, based on the mishnah (Sotah 8:4) quoted by Rashi. There is a dispute over the term yarei verach haleivav. Rabbi Akiva asserts that it is understood literally as someone who is fearful of combat. Rabbi Yosei HaGelili, however, maintains that it refers to someone who is fearful based on his transgressions that he will not merit to survive the war. He goes on to explain that this is why the Torah created the other exceptions, to save the fearful one from embarrassment as no one will know exactly why he is leaving the battlefield. Efrayim objected that in order for this arrangement to work, it would be futile to dismiss each group after each announcement. Clearly, they must have made all four declarations at once at which point all those subject to exemptions would leave together, thus concealing those who left because of their sins.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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