The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, April 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Kedoshim

    This week's parsha may be short but it also contains the highest mitzvah density (or mitzvos-per-pasuk, 0.8 if you're counting) of any parsha. Perhaps the most well-known mitzvah of all would have to be (19:18) ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha, which children are taught at a very young age and even gentiles unfamiliar with the Bible are aware of. It is interesting to note, however, the context in which this famous phrase appears. The mitzvos which precede this one are not to hate one's friend and to rebuke them when they have done something wrong and not to take revenge or bear a grudge against one's friend.
    It would seem that the Torah is teaching a very simple lesson here. The true test of friendship is when things are not so peachy. When one sees his friend acting in a manner not in accordance with the Torah and must rebuke him or if one friend happens to wrong the other, if they are able to pull through those situations in the proper way as prescribed by the Torah then they will be able to achieve the level of ahavah between friends which is expected of us. At the same time, the Torah also seems to be delivering a message about rebuke. It is not simply a matter of preventing a transgression. It is discussed in the context of loving your neighbour because it must be done out of love for a fellow Jew and concern for their spiritual well-being, not just a form of citizen's law enforcement.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Sukas David

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Monday, April 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

Just this past Sunday, at a family Bar Mitzvah, I heard a very beautiful insight which is perfect for seder night. My cousin, Dr. Yoel Jakobovits, described how they recently discovered some unpublished notes from his father, Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, z"l. This was one of the gems found therein.

We lead into Pesach with the haftarah of Shabbas HaGadol which ends with the tidings of the ultimate redemption and the arrival of Eliyahu HaNavi. In the gemara we find a number of references to Eliyahu's role in resolving disputes when that great day does come. In unresolved halachic matters the gemara will state teiku. Although the word does have an actual meaning in Aramaic, it is traditionally said to stand for Tishbi yetareitz kushyos ubaayos, Eliyahu (HaTishbi) will resolve the matter. In monetary matters we often find hashaar yehei munach ad sheyavo Eliyahu, the money that is subject to dispute will be placed aside until Eliyahu comes and resolves the matter. 

Lord Jakobovits explains why this role falls upon Eliyahu. It can be fairly safely stated that Eliyahu's defining moment was the showdown with the prophets of Ba'al at Har HaCarmel. He showed unwavering faith as he took on the masses, putting his life and everything he believed in on the line. But in addition to standing up to the staunch believers on the opposing side, he challenged the rest of the nation to quit sitting on the fence and waiting to jump on one bandwagon or the other. He demanded, with his timeless words, "ad masai atem posechim al shnei haseipim," how long will you continue to waver between the two opinions? With this, Eliyahu earned the eternal role as the resolver of doubt. 

But while we yearn for Eliyahu to be called upon to fulfill this role in the ultimate redemption, we find that Eliyahu makes various "appearances" in our times. Notably, many of these visits seem to involve children. Eliyahu is known as the mal'ach haBris and we have a seat for him at each one. On the night of the seder, when there is so much focus on transmitting the stories and traditions to our children, Eliyahu comes by once again. There is a connection. Lord Jakobovits posits that our children represent the idea of safeik, doubt. While we adults are, for the most part, set in our ways, the direction our children's lives might take very much hangs in the balance. We are tasked with shaping and molding them into the characters we would like them to become and we need the guidance of Eliyahu HaNavi to guide us on this mission.

Have a good Chag Kasher veSamei'ach
Please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

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Friday, April 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Shabbas HaGadol

Once again, the unique configuration of this year's parshios (although identical to that of three years ago) presents us with an interesting thematic pattern. Last week was the one shabbos out without a special haftarah. We read the epic story of the four metzoraim and their discovery of the vacated camp of Aram, putting an end to a long, painful drought. The economic consequences of this event were foretold by the navi Elisha. While the drought had pushed the price of flour through the roof, Elisha prophesied that in only a day's time, the price of a sa'ah of fine flour and two sa'ah of barley would be a shekel, a drastic drop. One of the king's men scoffed at Elisha's prediction and declared it absolutely impossible. Elisha then added another prediction that this man would ultimately meet his demise precisely when the first prophecy was in the process of coming to fruition. As, we know, both came true.

There is an interesting nuance in the words of the scoffer which draws a direct line of connection to the haftarah we read this week, Shabbas HaGadol, from the end of Malachi. The scoffer declared, "vehinei HaShem oseh arubos bashamayim hayihyeh kadavar hazeh." Even if HaShem were to fashion windows in the heavens, could such a thing ever be? In this week's haftarah the navi delivers a promise from HaShem which almost seems to answer this blasphemy directly. We are given an unprecedented promise of great reward if we properly give ma'aser, as mandated by the Torah. We are told to test HaShem, as it were, "im lo eftach lachem es arubos hashamayim vaharikosi lachem berachah ad bli dai,"  if I will not open up the windows of the heavens and shower blessing upon you to no end. The windows are already there and HaShem is ready to open them up for us when we are worthy. 

This idea, of course, fits perfectly into the theme of the day. The miracles of Purim and Pesach teach a very similar lesson. No matter how drastic the situation and how much we feel that there is simply nothing that can be done to save us, we must always remember that there is no calamity from which we cannot be saved and no salvation that is beyond HaShem's reach.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: A Revealing Note
Dikdukian: Stand up, goat!
Dikdukian: Watch that plural
Dikdukian: Shabbas HaGadol

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Wednesday, April 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Metzora

Today, 2 Nissan is the Yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicate le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

Parshas Tazria covers most of the laws pertaining to the declaration of a case of tzara'as. The specifics of a kohein determining when there is tzara'as on a body or garment are discussed there. Parshas Metzora begins with the post-tzara'as procedures necessary for the affected individual to become tahor once again. However, immediately following that we are told of the procedures involved in identifying tzora'as on a house. One would have expected this section to be connected to the other group in parshas Tazria.


We have dealt in the past with other examples where some of the things belong together - but they aren't. The key is usually an intrinsic uniqueness in the case of the section that doesn't belong. This instance is no different. The gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) informs us of an interesting fact concerning tzara'as of the house. According to one opinion, tzara'as of the house never happened and never will. Why then is it even discussed in the Torah? The gemara answers, derosh vekabel sachar, learn it and you will be rewarded. Perhaps it is the "impracticality" of tzara'as of the house that warrants its separation from the other more applicable cases of tzora'as.

[There is something that has always bothered me about the above gemara. The gemara explains that the reason why it can never happen is because the prerequisite for such a case is a blotch the size of two beans in the corner of the house, etc. which is so remote that it could never happen. My question is that the entire existence of tzara'as on the house and the way it works is a total miracle outside the bounds of nature. Since it is all a miracle from Above to begin with, why do we deem it so remote that it could happen in this fashion?]

The gemara in Sanhedrin lists two other examples of laws in the Torah that never have and never will be implemented. The ir hanidachas, the wayward city, is a city which has worshiped idols as a whole and is therefore destroyed as a whole. However, this is not carried out in a city that has even one mezuzah. The ben sorer umoreh, the wayward son is put to death. However, the requirements for this scenario are so exact and specific that it is virtually impossible.


R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, would caution, however, that one might learn this gemara and be led to believe that the purpose of these sections in the Torah is only so that we may sit and toil learning the specific laws and be rewarded simply for the toil. But this is not the case. What the gemara is telling us is that although these cases might never happen, there are valuable lessons to be learned from each halachah. For example, the discussion surrounding ben sorer umoreh teaches us very valuable lessons in chinuch. The Torah discusses these laws so that we may learn the valuable lessons that are attached to them and through those lessons we will earn reward.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Birkas HaIlanos

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