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Friday, December 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

Once again, a Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Aharon and Rachelle Yeres on the birth of their son who was named at his bris yesterday – Yisroel Aryeh, after his great grandfather on whose yahrtzeit he was born. Mazal Tov to the extended Yeres, Frankel and Stark extended families.


Skipping across the 878, a Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my cousins, the Moshens of Far Rockaway on the birth of a baby boy – to the parents, the grandparents and great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.


Yesterday, 12 Teves, was the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Joseph Schechter of Ner Yisrael. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yoseif ben Eliezer Z'ev.


An oldie but a goodie, also relevant to Sotah 36a which was recently passed by the daf yomi cycle:


The following is a story told to me by a friend that directly pertains to this week's parsha. He heard it in a schmooze from R' Aharon Kahn in YU. R' Kahn tells that one day his rebbe approached him, grabbed by the lapels and exclaimed, "It's refraction!" (For an explanation of refraction, see below.*)

"What is? What is?" he answered.

"Refraction," he repeated.

"What? What's refraction?"


The following was his explanation: Rashi explains (48:16) that the word veyidgu comes from the same root as the word dag, meaning fish. The blessing given to Efrayim and Menasheh is that they should multiply like the fish in the sea over which ayin hara, the evil eye, has no power. Why does the evil eye have no power over fish? The gemara (Sotah 36b) explains that the ayin hara has no power over fish because they are covered by water. The simple understanding could be that the water acts as a physical barrier to prevent the ayin hara. However, this rebbe explained that since fish are always in the water, when you look at them you are really not looking directly at the fish but rather, due to refraction, you are seeing some sort of distorted image of the fish and the image is somewhat shifted. Therefore, the evil eye has no power over them. Unbelievable!


*Refraction is the phenomenon that occurs when light passes through media of different densities. If the light passes through at an angle, the angle is slightly altered as it passes from one medium to the next, depending on their densities. This phenomenon is responsible for  a pencil looking bent when half of it is inserted into water and is also the concept behind eye glasses. 


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: You Make the Call: Aveil Mitzrayim

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Friday, December 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

Yesterday, 5 Teves, was the yahrtzeit of my wife's grandfather, Rabbi Dr Israel Frankel, a"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Yisroel Aryeh ben Asher Yeshayahu.


A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Aharon and Rachelle Yeres of NY on the birth of a boy this week. Mazal tov to the extended mishpachos.


Before sending his brothers off to inform their father that he was still alive, Yoseif hands out gifts to each of his brothers (45:22). Each one received clothing but to Binyamin, he gave 5 times the amount of clothes and three hundred silver coins. The gemara (Megillah 16a-b) is puzzled by this gesture: "Can it be that Yoseif would stumble over the very same misjudgment that caused his father so much grief? After all, it was the extra garment that Yaakov gave Yoseif which caused the jealousy amongst the brothers and lead to the current predicament." The gemara goes on to explain that Yoseif was alluding to the story of Purim.


I have always found this gemara difficult to understand. There is a very distinct difference between Yaakov's treatment of Yoseif and Yoseif's treatment of Binyamin. All of the brothers were equally Yaakov's sons. There was no reason for him to favour one over the other. That is why Yoseif's preferential treatment caused jealousy. But the other brothers were only half brothers to Yoseif. Binyamin was the only brother with whom Yoseif shared both a mother and a father. Surely any favouritism shown towards him is easily understood and should not cause any further strife.


Sure enough, Maharsha on this gemara is bothered by the very same issue. He explains that Yoseif's doling out of gifts was meant to reassure the brothers that he harboured no resentment against them for selling him. Although the intentions behind the extra gifts to Binyamin were certainly legitimate, they could have easily been misconstrued. Binyamin also happened to be the only brother with absolutely no involvement in the sale of Yoseif. Had the brothers seen this as the reason behind Yoseif's actions, it would have completely defeated the purpose.


The lesson here is clear. It is not sufficient to consider whether one's actions are right or wrong. One must carefully consider how those actions may be perceived by others. Perhaps it is fitting then that Yoseif's direct descendants are directly involved when the Torah teaches this listen more explicitly, (Bemidbar 32:22) "vihyisem neki'im meiHaShem umi'Yisrael," spoken, amongst others, half of the tribe of Menasheh,


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon / Dikdukian: Can you count to 70?
Dikdukian: Pain in the Neck
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 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Mikeitz / Chanukah

   Before the search for the missing silver goblet, the brothers blindly declare (44:9) that he with whom the goblet is found shall die. Earlier, when Lavan is searching Yaakov's possessions for his stolen idols, Yaakov says (31:32) that he/she with whom you shall find your gods will not live. Rashi teaches us there that it was this declaration that cursed Rachel and caused her to die on the way back from Lavan's abode. This is despite the fact that the idols were not found with her as we are taught that the curse of a chacham is carried out no matter what. Here, Binyomin was indeed found with the goblet in his bag. Nevertheless, (to my knowledge), there is no record of any ramifications of this curse on Binyamin.

    Perhaps the answer lies in the exact wordings of the two declarations. Yaakov said that the one with whom the idols are found "lo yichye," shall not live. This implies a certain lessening of life. Some life must be taken away from the subject of the curse. For this, Rachel's life was shortened and she died on the way rather than dying later. However, the brothers here declared that the one with whom the goblet is found shall die - no mention of when he shall die. After all, doesn't everyone die.

   Additionally, it has been suggested that Yaakov was not giving Lavan permission to harm anyone with whom he might find his idols. Rather, he was declaring that a penalty of death should be decreed upon him or her from Shamayim. The brothers' declaration was much different. They were, in fact, stating that if one of them were found with the goblet, the authorities would have permission to execute them. Since that option was declined, Binyamin was in the clear.



    Everyone is surely familiar with the miracle of the oil, which we commemorate on Chanukah.  The Chashmonaim found only enough oil for one day (not even enough for one day according to She'iltos d'Rav Achai) but the oil lasted for eight days.

    This was not, however, the first miracle with oil in Jewish history. For the haftarah of parshas Vayeira, we read about another miracle with oil. In Melachim II (perek 4) a poor woman (the widow of Ovadiah HaNavi, according to Midrash Tanchuma) comes to Elisha HaNavi in dire need. She is deeply in debt and the creditor is threatening to take her kids as slaves for payment.  Her only source of income was selling oil. Elisha tells her to borrow some jugs, close her door and pour the oil into those jugs. Miraculously, the oil multiplied to fill all of the jugs and she was able to sell the oil and pay off her debts.

    The question that occurred to me as we read this haftarah was, why is it that the miracle of Chanukah occurred in the specific manner in which it did? Why did the oil last extra long instead of multiply like it did in Elisha's case? As you traverse the many answers to the famous question of the Beis Yosef, indeed a number of analyses of the miracle might understand that the oil did in fact increase very slowly. But I have a suggestion of my own.

    The initial miracle of Chanukah, the unlikely military victory over the Syrian Greeks, was particularly noteworthy because we were so vastly outnumbered. In Al HaNisim, we make specific mention of "rabim beyad me'atim," HaShem brought the many to defeat at the hands of the few.  The theme of this miracle is quality over quantity. As Yonasan declared when he and his armourman single-handedly took on a band of Pelishtim (Shmuel I 14:6), HaShem does not discern between many and few when granting salvation to His noble servants. The quality of character and the nobility of purpose were all the Chashmonaim needed to defeat the Greeks. Therefore, rather than increase the quantity of the oil that was found, it was that miniscule measure of oil which lasted the necessary eight days.
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Clear the Halls (Chanukah)
Dikdukian: Na'asah Nes
Dikdukian: Be Strong
Dikdukian: Just Do It!
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Mikeitz veChanukah by Eliyahu Levin

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

Friday, December 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayeishev

Apropos for Daf Yomi:

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 (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. Also, 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

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