The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, June 24

The Weekly Shitkle - Beha'alosecha

    The Torah recounts that as B'nei Yisrael brought what would be their only Korban Pesach during their sojourn in the desert, there were individuals who were temei meis and thus unable to participate. There is a discussion in the gemara (Sukkah 25a) as to who in fact these individuals were. R' Yosei HaGelili suggests they were the ones in charge of transporting the body of Yoseif. Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that it was Misha'eil and Eltzaphan who were instructed to remove Nadav and Avihu's bodies from the mishkan. Finally, Rabbi Yitzchak discounts the first two opinions and posits that these were individuals who had become tamei as a result of a meis mitzvah.

    It is somewhat intriguing that the approach taken in the gemara is that there was something special and unique about this group. (See Ibn Ezra who states simply - to the contrary - that people were tamei because certainly people died regularly in the midbar.) Although, it is not unusual for a midrashic source to fill in the blanks in a pasuk, even if there is no compelling evidence that there is something missing. However, there is a question to be asked on the first two opinions. Why is it that R' Yosei and R' Akiva assume that these individuals were part of a single group, that they were all temei meis for the same reason? Could there not have been more than one cause for this group to be tamei?

    The Torah's introduction to this story is as follows (9:6): "Vayehi anashim asher hayu temei'im lenefesh adam." One would have expected the pasuk to read "vayihyu anashim" in the plural. But instead, the singular vayehi is used in reference to a group of people. It should be noted that the singular reference to a group is not particularly anomalous in the Torah. Neverheless, perhaps R' Yosei and R' Akiva understand that the pasuk is specifically worded this way to convey that although there were a number of individuals were tamei, they were all tamei for the same reason.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Al Pi Cheshbon: Piles of Quail 
Dikdukian: The Impure

Friday, June 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Bemidbar / Shavuos

Although I am only covering Shavous in the shtikle, please explore the many intriguing blog posts on Bemidbar below:

Just a couple of quick, cute thoughts on Shavuos as it falls out this year:

It is interesting, but not terribly significant, that the secular date for the second day of Shavuos is June 13 which, on this side of the world, is commonly expressed as 6/13. This doesn't happen too often but isn't terribly rare either. It happened 11 years ago (on the first day) and will reoccur in another 8 years from now.

Shavuos also happens to coincide this year with the Daf Yomi cycle beginning maseches Bava Kama. We have discussed previously the gemara (Pesachim 68) which discusses how one is to conduct himself on yom tov. One opinion is to either devote the whole day to HaShem (in prayer and learning etc.) or the whole day to one's self (eating etc.)  The other is that yom tov is to be split in half, half to HaShem and half to one's self. However, on Shavuos, everyone agrees that we require devotion to one's self because it is the day that the Torah was given to Bnei Yisrael.

The opening mishnah enumerates various forms of monetary damage and includes a strange word – mav'eh. Rav maintains it refers to damages caused by humans while Shmuel insists it refers to an animal's destruction by way of eating, referred to as shein, the tooth. Shmuel delivers a proof from a pasuk which uses the same root as mav'eh to denote something which is revealed just as an animal's teeth are revealed while it chews. Rav's support comes from a passage in Yeshayah (21:12). The literal meaning there is "to seek," and is referring to Man who ought to be seeking repentance before the end of days, per Rashi's explanation. We also find the same root referring to prayer as in targum to Bereishis 48:22. So this mysterious word is in fact interpreted loosely to encompass the two avenues we have to fulfill our ritual obligations on yom tov. We have the lachem of shein, eating, and the other means by which man seeks HaShem, referring to the laShem option.

Have a good Shabbos and Chag Samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: No Population Increase
Al Pi Cheshbon: Tens and Ones by Ari Brodsky
Al Pi Cheshbon: Rounded Numbers
Al Pi Cheshbon: Pidyon HaBen Probability
Dikdukian: Be or Ba?
Dikdukian: Discussions on Bemidbar by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Letzeis and On top of Old Smokey

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

Thursday, June 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Bechukosai

Today, 25 Iyar is the yahrtzeit of my mother. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Tzirel Nechama bas Tovia Yehuda.


Tuesday, 23 Iyar was the yahrtzeit of my great aunt, Lady Amélie Jakobovits. This week's shtikle is also dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Mayla bas Eliyahu.


Finally, a simchah that failed to make it in for the last couple of weeks: Mazal Tov to my niece, Rochel Leah Shonek and the entire Shonek / Bulka family on her recent engagement to Shua Greenwald of Lakewood.


This week's parsha begins with the promise of the blessings for those who follow the ways of the Torah. There are two conditions given: im bechukosai teileichu, and es mitzvosai tishmeru. Rashi's comment is a common subject for Bechukosai discussion. Bechukosai teileichu refers to toiling in the study of Torah. However, we must certainly be sure to toil enough to realize that there are in fact two conditions. Indeed, there is only one instance of the word im, if, in the pasuk. This would appear to indicate that one must accomplish both conditions to be deserving of the blessings. We must toil in the study of Torah but also fulfill the mitzvos diligently. Contrarily, the mirroring pasuk which introduces the curses contains two instances of im. If we falter in either of these two categories, there are grave consequences.


 To put it in computer logic terms for those for whom it is helpful:


if ((bechukosai_teileichu) && (mitzvosai_tishmeru))



    getKelalos(); // Chas veShalom


However, even if one is able to accomplish the two conditions, there is still a delicate balance that must be met. This is where the haftarah connects with the parsha. In Pirkei Avos, Perek 3 (Mishna 17) R' Elazar ben Azaria teaches what is arguably the paradigmatic lesson of all of Pirkei Avos. One whose wisdom and knowledge is greater than his deeds is like a tree whose branches are greater than its roots, lacking support and easily toppled over. One whose deeds are greater, however, is like a tree whose roots are greater in number than its branches, providing support against all sorts of nasty conditions. The pesukim used to illustrate this are from this week's haftarah (Yirmiyahu 17:5-8). "And he shall be as a tree by the waters..." What I find puzzling is that the Navi is clearly contrasting someone who puts his trust in man with someone who places his trust solely in HaShem. R' Elazar ben Azaria seems to borrow this imagery from its clear application in Tana"ch and apply it to one whose deeds are greater than his wisdom. Nevertheless, these pesukim, as understood by R' Elazar ben Azaria, establish a direct connection between the parsha and the haftarah.

Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Qualification of AHOY rule

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