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Friday, July 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

The end of parshas Matos details the conquering and settling of the east side of the Jordan River by the tribes of Reuvein, Gad and half of Menasheh. The very last pasuk recounts Novach's capture of a series of cities and subsequently naming them after himself, Novach. Rashi dwells on the words "vayikra lah Novach" which should have featured a mapik heh in the word lah. He explains that the word is without a mapik heh, therefore rendering it "softer," because the name of that city did not endure.

Rav Hirsch writes that if Novach's naming of this city did not last, surely there must be a reason, some deficiency in his actions. He explains that while it is the way of the nations to have cities named after oneself, this is not typical practice among B'nei Yisrael. It puts undue importance on one's possessions as his true accomplishments when in truth, it is one's deeds that are his true legacy. (Indeed, the only city name in Eretz Yisrael that comes to mind as possibly being named after a person is Shechem – not a Jew.) It was Novach's naming the city after himself that was the reason why the name did not last.

Rav Shimon Schwab, in Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeiva, points out that the previous pasuk recounts Yair's naming his captured land Chavos Yair, the villages of Yair. How come Novach's city did not retain its name but we find no such fate for that of Yair's? He explains that there is an important nuance which differentiates the two names. Novach gave the city his exact name. This was an indication that from Novach's perspective, this city was the very embodiment of himself. Yair, conversely, named the city "The Villages of Yair." The simple addition of that extra word made clear that there was a separation between the man and his possessions. These were his villages but it wasn't him.

 Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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Friday, July 14

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

This week's parsha begins by recounting the details of Pinechas's heroic act at the end of last week's which brought an abrupt end to the devastating plague. The gemara in Sanhedrin (82b), the masechta on which the Daf Yomi cycle is about to embark, tells of an exchange between the Heavenly angels and HaShem in which HaShem defends Pinechas as a "kanai ben kanai," a zealot, the son of a zealot. Rashi explains that Pinechas's actions are being linked to those of his ancestor, Levi, in attacking wiping out the city of Shechem to defend the honour of his sister and his father's family. Ironically, the original act was carried out by a tandem of Shimon and Levi whereas here, Levi was pitted against Shimon.

The similarities between the two episodes run much deeper than just the initial act. Shimon and Levi attacked Shechem without the consent of their father, Yaakov. For this they drew much parental criticism. The focal point of that rebuke (Bereishis 34:30) appears to be the grave public relations ramifications of their act. Yaakov was concerned that news of this shocking incident would invite an invasion from the surrounding nations. Miraculously, however, we are told (34:35) that the fear of the Lord prevented anyone from chasing after Yaakov and his family.

Pinechas also took spontaneous action with the awareness that he would not be met with universal approval. Indeed, the very same gemara recounts the ensuing ridicule that Pinechas endured. Here, too, public relations were a significant consideration. A princess of Midyan was killed and such a high-profile incident could easily have brought on a war in an instant. Nevertheless, Midyan does not take action. (However, as we have discussed previously, according to some commentaries, they were plotting revenge.) Even though B'nei Yisrael are commanded to bring the war to them, that did not happen immediately.

Both acts of zealotry involved not only possible physical danger but subjection to public shaming, making them all the more heroic. And in both instances, Divine intervention saw to it that there was no negative blowback from the affected or surrounding nations.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev
Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato
Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

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Friday, July 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This Shabbos is the yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 

This Sunday is the yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander.

Tuesday, Shiv'ah Asar B'Tamuz, is the yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

 

When the elders of Moav and Midyan came to try to hire Bil'am, the pasuk (22:7) recounts that they brought kesamim with them. Rashi writes that the Midyanites went in with a plan as to how to determine Bil'am's legitimacy. They said, "If he comes with us this time, he is legitimate. If he tells us to delay, there is no purpose." Once he said "sleep here tonight," they saw that he had no hope and they left him. The GR"A points out the inconsistency in the terminology used by Rashi. It is observed in the Hebrew as Rashi changes terms from "Yeish bo mamash" to "Ein bo to'eles" to "Ein bo tikvah."

 

The GR"A explains that Bil'am professed to be on a higher level of prophecy than Moshe. Although Moshe was above all other prophets in that he may speak to HaShem whenever he wished, Bil'am claimed to be even greater, in that he was "yodei'a da'as Elyon," that he didn't even have to speak to HaShem but that he already knew what He was "thinking," as it were. Therefore, the Midyanites reasoned, if he comes with us right away, it is indeed true that he is better than Moshe - yeish bo mamash - there is legitimacy to his claim. If he tells us to wait then that means he has to confer with HaShem. Although he might still be a great prophet, he is no better than Moshe so why should they side with Bil'am any more than Moshe. Therefore, there is no "purpose" (to'eles). When they saw that he required them to stay the night, they realized that he could only communicate with HaShem at night, which put him well below Moshe on the prophecy scale. Then they saw that he had no hope (tikvah) and they were wasting their time so they left him.
 
Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

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