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Friday, April 28

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria / Metzora

The main topic of this week's parshios, Tazria and Metzora is the sickness known as tzara'as. Tazria deals mainly with the assessment of tzara'as. In Metzora, we begin to discuss the recovery process. We find that a metzora must bring two birds after his tzara'as has gone away (14:4). One of the birds is slaughtered and the other is sent away. Why?


Rashi there writes that the reason why birds are brought is because they talk a lot and the reason why one becomes afflicted with tzara'as is because he spoke leshon hara. Be'er Moshe, in the introduction to chelek 3 of his teshuvos, (as well as a number of other commentaries,) explains that the slaughtering of the bird is to symbolize how we must be aware of when to keep our mouths shut and to prevent whatever negative words we were going to say. However, the most complete way to battle leshon hara is not by complete verbal repression. One must be able to speak normally, using his mouth for good, for divrei Torah. He must be able to converse with individuals but in a way that he watches his words and doesn't say anything wrong. Therefore, the second bird is sent out into the world symbolizing how one is supposed to go out and talk naturally, but the bird is first dipped in the blood of the dead bird, to show how he must always keep in mind his responsibilities to refrain from speaking evil.


The Chofetz Chaim encountered numerous challenges trying to get haskamos for his sefer on leshon hara. On one occasion, he was given a test where someone engaged him in conversation for 6 hours on all sorts of issues of the day. Yet, any time the conversation would gravitate towards the denigration of individuals, he would put a quick end to it. Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim was the true embodiment of the above.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Omer in Different Bases
Dikdukian: White Hair
Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin

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Sunday, April 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Shevi'i shel Pesach

The seventh day of Pesach fits perfectly into the scheme of the chag. We begin by celebrating the grand miracles of the actual exodus from Mitzrayim and we end by celebrating the miracles at Yam Suf. However, there is a bigger picture. Our counting of sefiras haOmer beginning on the second day of Pesach ties Pesach to Shavuos such that the 50-day period constitutes one long chag celebrating yetzias Mitzrayim and the purification process which culminated in matan Torah. How does shvi'i shel Pesach fit in to this big picture? It is not yom tov in and of itself like Shemini Atzeres but it is a yom tov nevertheless. What was the necessity of the events that transpired at Yam Suf and what part do they play in the progression towards matan Torah?


In parshas Vayeira we have discussed the purpose of the warning to Lot and his family not to look behind them when they fled Sedom and why his wife became a pillar of salt when she did so. It was not enough to leave Sedom. They had to leave and never look back. Looking back upon the destruction illustrated Lot's wife's inability to truly remove herself from her environment.


We find that there was a similar issue with certain factions in B'nei Yisrael who still thought they were better off in Mitzrayim. This is made evident by the arguments presented as the Egyptians approached. B'nei Yisrael had physically left Mitzrayim but their past was still fresh in their minds, to the point that they were not convinced that they were currently in a better situation.


There is apparently excessive emphasis put on the destruction of the Eqyptians at Yam Suf. Moshe declares (14:13) "as you have seen Mitzrayim today, you will cease to see them ever again." And as the Midrash recalls, the dead Egyptians were washed ashore to make it clear to B'nei Yisrael that they had not survived the ordeal. It was seemingly insufficient for B'nei Yisrael to merely escape the clutches of the Egyptians to safety on the other side of the sea. The Egyptian army needed to be destroyed and B'nei Yisrael needed to bear witness to their destruction. Perhaps this was all necessary as a means of closing the chapter of Mitzrayim in our history. We left a nation which had been ravaged by the ten plagues and brought to its knees. But it was still a viable nation, one worth returning to if the situation were to necessitate it. But the complete decemation of the army at Yam Suf dealt the final deathly blow, as if to say, "the Mitzrayim you once knew is no longer and there is no going back."


In order for us to properly and wholeheartedly look to the future, it was necessary for us to completely detach ourselves from the past, to know that we may never look back and only build and grow towards a greater destiny. This allowed us to spend the remaining working towards that as we approach Matan Torah.

Have a chag samei'ach!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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Monday, April 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

This year's installment once again is inspired by a thought expressed in R' Jonathan Sacks' haggadah, although it is not necessarily his own original thought. While discussing the main themes behind the purpose of the haggadah, he points out that while the word derives its etymology from lehagid, to tell, it is also related to the word eged, to bind, to join or to connect. The retelling of the haggadah connects us to previous generations as well as with other Jews around the world in different continents engaging in the same practice.

It occurred to me that this two-letter tandem – gimmel and dalet – is indeed quite a versatile pair and forms the body of many diverse words, each of which – with a little homiletic license – can be applied to a theme of the haggadah.

We first encounter the word Gad when Leah uses that name for her son (Bereishis 30:11.) The word already has its own meaning with Rashi translating it as mazal tov, good fortune. Indeed, the story of the haggadah is the beginning of our first "winning streak" as a nation. When Gad receives his berachah (49:19,) we find the word gedud, an army battalion. As evidenced by the famous passage of the four sons, the haggadah is a very significant component in the eternal battle that is the education of our children and the challenge of ensuring they follow in the correct path. If we can successfully help them gain a true appreciation of the story of the haggadah, the battle has already begun to swing in our favour.

Still in sefer Bereishis (32:33) we have the word gid, which refers to a tendon. I imagine this is closely related to eged, discussed above, as the tendon is what connects the muscles to the bones.

In the mishnah (Parah 2:2) the verb yagud means to remove something that doesn't belong, in this case a parah adumah's black horns and hoofs. We endured the long, arduous exile in Mitzrayim and survived by not blending in and making sure we constantly felt that we were where we did not belong. Sure enough, HaShem ultimately removed us. But in truth, this word (whose source is Daniel 4:11,) might very well also be a derivation of eged. Many words are used as their own opposites and in this case, yagud, seems to imply the severing of a connection. To add to the previous ideas behind the theme of connection, although the haggadah is the retelling of a well-structured story, its text is made up of many seemingly disparate parts which often don't seem to fit together. But of course, they do all connect to each other. For another contemporary rendition dedicating to uncovering these bindings, see my father's The Haggadah Connection.

We even find the gimmel-dalet combination forming words in Aramaic such as guda denahara (Eruvin 24b,) the river bank. The banks of the river keep its waters contained and prevent them from overflowing, keeping the water moving in the right direction. The story of our exodus from Egypt is one of the foundations of our belief system and, as mentioned above, a necessary element in keeping the waters of Torah flowing down the proper path.

Finally, one can't ignore the presence of the very same letter combination in the word gedi, kid goat. This little animal plays quite a prevalent role in our history. It was the gedi that was used as the delicacy for Yitzchak and whose fur was used to fool him, allowing Yaakov to usurp Eisav's blessings (Bereishis 27.) It plays a role in the story of Yehudah and Tamar (38,) an episode which set the stage for the Davidic Dynasty. The same animal (although not referred to as gedi) is used by the brothers to fake Yosef's death in the episode that ultimately leads to our exile in Egypt. The gedi is also the animal of choice to illustrate the prohibition that makes up such a significant portion of our halachah text – the mixing of meat and milk. It is therefore fitting – although I haven't quite figured out how it all does fit – that we end the haggadah with the story of the father who bought the one kid goat, chad gadya.

In the passages that instruct us to embark on this quest to educate our children about this great chapter in our history, the word ve'amarta, or a variation thereof, is used three times (Shemos 12:27, 13:14, Devarim 6:21) whereas vehigadta is only used once (Shemos 13:8.) A whole essay could be devoted to the nuances which differentiate those two terms. But perhaps the above sheds some light and why our text is referred to not as the amirah, but the haggadah.

Have a Chag Kasher ve'Sameiach!

For a collection of previous seder night shtikles, please check out my archive of past Seder shtikles.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

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Friday, April 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav / Shabbas HaGadol

A special Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Avi and Sara Lifshitz of Migdal HaEmek on the birth of their daughter, Tzofia. Mazal Tov to the extended Yeres, Frankel and Lifshitz families.

This week, my great uncle, Manfred Jakobovits from Kibbutz Lavi, passed away. I have not yet gotten his full Hebrew name but nevertheless, this week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso.

    At the end of this week's parsha, we are described the ceremony of the consecration of the kohanim. As part of the proceedings, Moshe brought three korbanos: a chatas, an olah, and the eil hamiluim. In the pasuk that deals with the slaughtering of the last korban, the note on the word "vayishchat" is the unique shalsheles, found only in four places in the Torah and three others in the rest of NA"CH.

    R' Chaim Kanievsky explains why specifically this of the three korbanos has a shalsheles on the word "vayishchat." He says he saw in a sefer that a shalsheles denotes an extension or elongation of whatever word it is on. For instance, as Sedom was about to be destroyed, Lot lingered and did not go along with the angels. The pasuk (Bereishis 19:17) says "vayismahmah," with a shalsheles, for he lingered excessively.

    Here, the other two korbanos required only a spilling of the blood on the mizbeiach. The last korban, however, in addition to the spilling of blood on the mizbeiach required also the putting of blood on the thumb and big toe of Aharon and his four sons. Therefore, Moshe required to deal at greater length with the slaughtering of this korban so that he could make sure enough blood was gathered for all the necessary tasks. This is why there is a shalsheles on the word "vayishchat."

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: שבת הגדול
Dikdukian: נעשה

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