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Friday, January 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemos

The irony is hard to ignore. The United States is now hours away from inaugurating a new leader on the eve of Shabbas Parshas Shemos. While the path that lies ahead under this new leadership is unknown, the parsha certainly provide numerous glimpses into Moshe's exceptional virtues qualifying him to lead our nation. One incident that stands out is the altercation in which Moshe kills the Egyptian officer. The Abarbanel asks some fundamental questions on the episode. The pasuk recounts (2:11) that Moshe saw an Egyptian hitting an ish ivri mei'echav, a Hebrew man from his brethren. The word mei'echav seems superfluous. Surely, if he is a Hebrew, he is from his brethren. Then, when Moshe kills the Egyptian it says that he looked both ways and saw that there was no man. If that is the case, how did Dasan know that he had done it as is evident from the events that followed?


Abarbanel offers a novel interpretation of the events. Contrary to the more popular understandings, there were in fact many present at the time. The word mei'echav is telling us that the Egyptian removed this one man from the group of his (Moshe's) brothers and began to beat him only. Moshe saw this and looked both ways and saw that there was no man. This is not to say there were no other individuals present. Rather, he observed that no one was willing to be a man and to stand up in defence of his fellow Jew. Moshe understood that he needed to be the one to rise to the occasion and do something about it so he killed the Egyptian. But, it was indeed in front of many.


There is an alternative answer to Abarbanel's second question. According to the midrash (Shemos Rabba) the man being flogged by the Egyptian was none other than Dasan himself. It is therefore no surprise that he was aware of Moshe's having killed the Egyptian. But it paints an even uglier picture of what went ensued. Dasan challenges Moshe the next day, saying, (2:14) "are you going to kill me like you killed the Egyptian?" Not only is he unnecessarily pointing a finger at Moshe for a noble deed, he is showing complete ingratitude for having saved his own life.


The above interpretations fit well with Rashi's second interpretation of Moshe's reaction when he states, (ibid) "Alas, it is known." The obvious meaning is that his killing of the Egyptian became known. But Rashi offers another interpretation. Moshe was stating, "I was always bothered, why the Israelites were deserving of such oppression. Now I know they are deserving." This episode brought out the worst in B'nei Yisrael. First, a crowd watches idly as their brother is beaten. And then Dasan fails to acknowledge Moshe's valour and even turns it against him.


We are certainly all hopeful that this new era in history will bring about more peace and prosperity for us as a nation but we must be mindful not to depend on others for our defence. It is incumbent upon us to stand up and do whatever is in our powers.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikduian: Dikduk Observations on Shemos by Eliyahu Levin

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Friday, January 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayechi

This past Tuesday, 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.

As well, the shtikle is also dedicated bizchus a refuah sheleimah for the following:

Tamar Adina bas Kayna Shulamis

Chana Faiga bas Shaindel Rachel

Yochanan ben Gella Rachel

Moshe ben Mirel


    In pasuk 48:22 Yaakov refers to what seems to be a certain piece of land that he captured "becharbi uvkashti." The simple translation of these words is "with my sword and my bow." However, Targum Onkelos translates "bitzlosi uv'vausi", with my prayer and my supplication. Meshech Chochma (Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk) explains the use of these two words as the translation of the words in the pasuk and the difference between the two types of prayer to which Onkelos refers.

    The word tzelosi refers to the regular prayers that have been specifically prescribed by the Anshei Keneses HaGedolah. The halachah regarding these prayers is that one does not require specific kavanah for these prayers to work. Therefore, it is the translation of charbi, sword. A sword is likewise used in close battle and requires little control in order to strike the target. For the most part, it "kills" in any circumstance.

    Ba'usi, which literally means "needs," refers to one's own personal prayers to HaShem outside of those daily prayers mentioned above. With these prayers one requires specific kavanah in order for them to be at all effective. Simply reciting the words is not enough. These prayers are likened to the keshes, the bow and arrow. Without a skilled shooter, it is ineffective and will more often than not miss its target. It requires specific aim in order for the arrow to reach its desired destination.

    Interestingly, the word uvkashti without its vowels may be read ubakashasi, and my requests. The word could just as easily have been vekashti, omitting repetition of the bais as a prefix. Perhaps the specific choice of words is a hint to Onkelos' interpretation.

Have a good Shabbos. Chazak Chazak veNischazeik!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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Friday, January 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayigash

    After Yoseif finally reveals his identity to his brothers the atmosphere appears to be rather tense. The tension is apparently broken when Yoseif engages in a tearful embrace with Binyamin, followed by a similar gesture with each of the other brothers (45:14-15). As the pasuk clearly states, only then did the brothers begin to talk with Yoseif. Rashi explains that they were so ashamed that they were left literally speechless. It was only after they saw Yoseif crying and they knew his intentions were peaceful that they were able to speak with him.


    What is puzzling about this comment of Rashi was that Yoseif's revelation was clearly preceded by a very genuine, whole-hearted cry which was heard throughout the land of Egypt. Yoseif was not one to hide his emotions and there did not seem to be a hint of anger in the dialog that followed. Nevertheless, the brothers were still nervous. What seems to have put the brothers at ease was not necessarily Yoseif's crying alone. It was the equal treatment of all his brothers. Surely, they expected Yoseif to deal kindly with Reuvein, who sincerely attempted to save him, or the other brothers who were less involved. But what about Yehudah, the mastermind behind the sale of Yoseif, or Shimon, who is "credited" with throwing him into the pit? However, the pasuk clearly equates all brothers when recounting Yoseif's tearful embraces. Not only was he crying and full of loving, brotherly emotion, it was clear to the brothers that his feelings were equal for all the brothers, regardless of their involvement in his sale. Only then did they feel comfortable conversing with Yoseif. (Perhaps this interpretation can be read into Rashi's comment as well.)


    Another approach is offered by David Farkas in HaDoresh ViHamivakesh (recently published second edition):

The words "after this" seem extra. To me this seems to be the precise culmination of the events that occurred so long ago. Before, in 35:5, the brothers were described as "not being able to speak with [Joseph] in peace". Now, after they had seen the Hand of God in all its awesome clarity, only "after this" were they finally able to speak with their brother! 

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