The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, July 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Devarim / Chazon / Tish'ah B'Av

In a shiur on the haggadah earlier this year I heard an interesting perspective on vehi she'amdah. Part of the retribution meted out upon those who seek to destroy us is that they endure a legacy of association with evil more so than others who might be guilty of equally nefarious deeds. This is not a concrete rule but consider, as an example, the liberal use of the word Nazi in association with anything evil. Conversely, how much of the general population are even aware of more recent perpetrators of similar heinous crimes such as Pol Pot or Slobodan Milošević.

However, earlier on in our history, before many of our brutal persecutors came to be, there was a single paradigm of evil – Sedom and its neighbouring cities. Moshe Rabbeinu first references Sedom in the rebuke at the beginning of parshas Nitzavim. In this week's haftarah of chazon, the navi Yeshayahu makes a sharp comparison between the wickedness of the generation and that of Sedom. But in a passage we will read tomorrow night in Eichah, Yirmiyahu takes it one step further in exclaiming (4:6) that the crimes perpetrated by our nation were even greater than those of Sedom.

As related by R' Moshe Hauer on Tish'ah B'Av last year, R' Yissachar Shlomo Teichtal, author of Eim HaBanim Semeichah, in his work on Tanach, addresses this shocking charge. Can it really be said that the generation at the end of the first Beis HaMikdash was more evil than Sedom? There were definitely significant sins which warranted the destruction, but it was still a nation of generally decent upstanding people. Sedom, on the other hand was pure evil through and through. Wickedness was the societal norm.

He explains that the continuation of the pasuk must be considered in order to understand what Yirmiyahu is trying to convey. The sin was greater than that of Sedom – which was overturned in an instant. The actual deeds of Sedom and its neighbours were surely far greater than that of the generation of the churban. But Sedom met its fate in the blink of an eye without any warning. There was no navi coming to proclaim (as Yonah did for Nineveh,) that their doom was impending. It is in this regard that the sins of the generation exceeded those of Sedom. For generation after generation, navi after navi, we were warned repeatedly to change our ways. We were given the opportunity to reverse course but to no avail.

In a related passage in Eim HaBanim Semeichah, R' Teichtal explains that it is difficult to forge a way forward and to know what we need to do in our time. However, he relates a parable of a man wandering the desert, searching for a way out until he happens upon another individual in the same predicament. The other man tells him that he doesn't know the way out but they should still stick together, because from what he has tried he knows what is not the way out. If we do not know the clear path to geulah, we must at least be able to learn from previous generations and failures what it is that gets us in trouble over and over again.

May we merit the ultimate geulah speedily in our day!

I highly recommend listening to the original audio – only 5½ minutes – available here.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Don't you worry!
Dikdukian: Past and Future
AstroTorah: Like the Stars of the Heavens
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

Friday, July 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

As if the Three Weeks and Nine Days were not sad enough, this week, my cousin, Mrs. Michelle Jakobovits, passed away here in Baltimore. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Rochel Mirel bas Shmuel HaLevi.

The beginning of parshas Mas'ei includes a quick rundown of every single resting point along the journey out of Mitzrayim towards Eretz Yisrael. It is difficult to read through this account without wondering about the necessity to recount each and every stop. We know where they left from and we know where they end up. We even already know about the more significant events in between and where they took place. But why do we need to know every single other location?

I discovered an inspiration towards this idea from a very unlikely source, although it does not really answer the question. There is a quadrennial international sporting event currently captivating much of the entire world – the World Cup of Soccer (or football, depending where you are from.) One of the more intriguing aspects of the game (in which I, like many others, only have but a quadrennial interest) is the way the ball is passed around. The statistics actually keep tallies of the total passes and they are in the hundreds and can sometimes even be in the thousands during a single match. Additionally, although most other team sports do not have the ball or other object typically passed back further than a certain point – and some sports even forbid it – in soccer, the passes range throughout the entire field and often retreat all the way back to the goalkeeper. These numerous passes are necessary to build a scoring a chance which can often take many minutes to develop. If even one of these passes is off the mark, it can spell immediate doom.

Similarly (lehavdil), our journeys in the midbar often did not move in the forward direction. If they had, the whole sojourn would have culminated in a matter of days. But each change of course in whichever direction was necessary, whether for positive reasons or otherwise. We may not know the true purpose behind each of the individual stopping points, aside from some insights offered by Chaza"l. But we can certainly rest assured that there was a Divine calculation every step of the way.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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

Friday, July 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

In this week's parsha, Moshe asks of HaShem to find a suitable replacement to take over the leadership of B'nei Yisrael after he passes away. Moshe sums up the qualifications in one pasuk (27:17), "who will go out in front of them and come in front of them, who will bring them out and bring them in, so that the people of HaShem shall not be like sheep without a shepherd." It seems rather startling that in this short list of qualifications, Moshe does not seem to be particular about the scholarly attributes of the new leader. Could it possibly be that Moshe was not bothered that the new leader of B'nei Yisrael be a talmid chacham?

 

I think the answer lies in the exact wording that Moshe used, "asher yeitzei lifneihem, va'asher yavo lifneihem." In the gemara (Sotah 13b) Moshe's words at the beginning of parshas Vayeilech (Devarim 31) are analyzed. He says that he is 120 years today, "lo uchal od latzeis velavo," I can no longer go out and come in. The gemara notes that we know from the pesukim at the end of the Torah that Moshe never lost his vigour, "lo nas leicho." Rather, the meaning of the pasuk is "latzeis velavo bedivrei halachah," to come and go in halachah, teaching you that the wells of chachmah were sealed from him before he died and he could no longer learn. We see from the gemara that the terminology "latzeis velavo" can refer to Torah scholarship. Perhaps that is the meaning here as well. Moshe was in fact asking HaShem that the new leader be one who could guide B'nei Yisrael in Torah learning as well.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Keves vs. Kesev

Dikdukian:  Shabbas be'Shabbato

Dikdukian:  I say Yericho, you say Yereicho
Dikdukian:  All of the brothers

Dikdukian: Pinechas: What's in a Name?

Al Pi Cheshbon: Probability of the Goral

Al Pi Cheshbon: Counting the Judges

AstroTorah: What's your Sign? by R' Ari Storch

 

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