The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, July 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach / Bar Mitzvah Edition

Here is Efrayim's pshetl in text form, followed by the pre-recorded video that was shown at the Bar Mitzvah:

Here are a few of my own thoughts, expressed during the speeches at the Bar Mitzvah:

I was debating how much attention to draw to the fact that the Bar Mitzvah was on July 4th. Indeed, the way the calendar works, it is not often that Independence Day falls out in the week of parshas Korach. The last time it happened was actually the year Efrayim was born. The midsrash recounts that Korach approached Moshe with two quandaries – does a garment made completely of techeiles  require tzitzis and does a house full of seforim require a mezuzah. Moshe answered in the affirmative on both counts, to the objection of Korach. R' Nosson Adler explains that these were not random cases Korach brought to Moshe to start up. They were very much in line with the theme of the argument he expressed in the pesukim – "ki chol ha'eidah kulam kedoshim." If we are a nation of holy people, is there any need for one man to lord over us? I have always felt that this exchange can be understood, on some level, to be a debate on the place of democracy in the society of the dor hamidbar and perhaps in Judaism in general.
I once heard Benjamin Netanyahu quote a profound thought from Winston Churchill regarding democracy. "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Indeed, as the Rav of our shul often points out, we enjoy today a level of religious freedom and flourishing of limud haTorah and shemiras haMitzvos which perhaps we haven't seen since the first beis haMikdash. The advancement of the principles of democracy have certainly played a significant role in allowing this growth. However, at the same time, the ideas behind democracy have also given rise to a unique set of challenges we as Jews have not encountered in previous generations. We have seen society corrupted to a degree that not only can people say and do whatever they feel, they claim a right to be acknowledged and celebrated for it. There are times – especially considering recent events here in Baltimore – where one really starts to wonder if certain citizens believe they have a constitutional right to break the law. Independence Day coinciding with Korach provides a unique opportunity to reflect on both the positives and negatives that American democracy has brought upon us.
In truth, the ideas of independence – in contrast to those of freedom – are also very much apropos to a Bar Mitzvah. Independence doesn't simply mean that one is free to do what they want but also that they now must take full responsibility for those decisions. American independence meant that the nation was now free to govern themselves as a sovereign nation but with that was the reality that they could no longer blame the British for slavery or civil war and the like. A Bar Mitzvah as well now gain the freedom to make some of his own decisions. It is our hope and our tefillah that our Bar Mitzvah, Efrayim, learn to make these choices wisely as he becomes a man a true ben Torah.



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