The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, January 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

A Weekly Shtikle mazal tov to my niece and nephew, Kayla (née Levy) and Yosef Marx of Eretz Yisrael on the birth of their daughter, Tzirel Nechama, earlier this week. Mazal Tov to the extended Bulka, Levy and Marx mishpachos and to the great great grandmother, Oma Jakobovits.


As the Egyptians realized they were doomed when their chariots began to collapse in the middle of Yam Suf, they proclaimed (14:25) "Let us flee from the Israelites for HaShem is fighting for them in Egypt!" At least, this is the simple literal understanding of what they said. But the last phrase is very puzzling. They were not in Egypt. HaShem wasn't fighting their battle in Egypt. Rashi starts by interpreting the word beMitzrayim as really meaning baMitzriyim, not in Egypt but with the Egyptians. That solves the problem rather simply.


He then brings another, less direct approach from the Mechilta. Just as those who in the sea were being smitten, so too those who remained in Egypt were being simultaneously smitten.


However, Targum Onkelos offers a novel interpretation of this pasuk. He writes that the Egyptians were declaring that this was the same Strong Hand of God that fought B'nei Yisrael's battles in Egypt. A polytheistic belief system, such as that to which the Egyptians subscribed, is forced to attribute boundaries to their deities by some sort of criteria such as location, time or specific strength. As much as the Egyptians recognized HaShem's Hand in the meting out of the ten plagues, they still did not appreciate our monotheistic beliefs. It would seem from this pasuk that they believed that HaShem's powers were somehow confined to Egypt. They chased B'nei Yisrael with the belief that His Mighty Hand would not reach them outside of those boundaries. When they witnessed the miraculous collapse of their chariots, they finally began to realize their error. They recognized that the God who brought their nation to its knees on its home turf knows no boundaries and was now bringing them to their ultimate demise.


(On further consideration, I'm not sure I have accurately understood the tense of the targum. But I believe the idea is valid independently, as well.)

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Happy 12th Birthday, Dikdukian!
Dikdukian: Exceptions Ahoy
Dikdukian: Midash, HaShem...
Dikdukian: Leave us Alone
Al Pi Cheshbon: Chamushim
AstroTorah: The Gemara's Aliens? by R' Ari Storch

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Friday, January 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Bo

I recently had an observation regarding the current political battle raging in the United States and how it relates to events in these parshios. Without getting too deep in the political weeds, one way to understand the dispute is a disagreement as to whether or not certain individuals are desired as residents of this country. Shall we build a wall to keep out all but those who wish to enter through fully legal means? Or is it proper to let anyone in who wants to enter? Every nation needs to devote significant thought to the issue of whom they want to let in and at times, even consider those who are already there and whether they should remain.

There were certainly many facets to the subjugation in Mitzrayim and the subsequent redemption. This national issue was very much part of the story line. At the very beginning of Shemos, we learn about Paroah's convention to decide what to do about their "Jewish problem." One must assume that expulsion was an option that was on the table. Other nations throughout history have certainly had no qualms about that course of action. Ultimately, of course, it was decided that best strategy was to keep, contain and subjugate them.

As the mission towards deliverance begins, the dialogue consists primarily of Moshe trying to convince Paroah to let B'nei Yisrael leave for B'nei Yisrael's sake, not the sake of Paroah or Mitzrayim. However, after the attrition of the initial seven plagues, at the beginning of this week's parsha, we begin to see a shift. After Paroah stubbornly ignores Moshe's warning about the locusts, his closest courtiers have had enough and insist (10:7) that he let them go. We all know how that turned out.

Later, in the preamble to the ultimate plague of makas bechoros, Moshe foretells (11:8) that these servants would give up on convincing their ruler and come to Moshe on their own and beg him to leave. Sure enough, as the events played out, Paroah himself came to Moshe and Aharon and the entire nation eventually came to the realization that under no circumstances could the nation sustain B'nei Yisrael remaining in their midst. Finally, we were given the one expulsion in our history that we were actually longing for.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Talented Locusts
AstroTorah: Korban Pesach in the Sky by R' Ari Storch
AstroTorah: The Death Star (Ra'ah) the classic by R' Ari Storch

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Friday, January 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Va'eira

BOOK PLUG: Although we do have an extra month this year, Pesach is still fast approaching. These parshiyos are the perfect time to get in the mood and start thinking about the haggadah. My good friend, noted author Mordechai Bodek has come up with yet another unique masterpiece, surely the first of its kind – The Emoji Haggadah. Please check it out:

At the beginning of the plague of frogs, as Aharon raised is hand over the waters of Egypt, the pasuk states (8:2) "vata'al hatzefardeia," the frog rose up. Although throughout the episode, the frogs are always referred to in plural, here it is in the singular form. There is a discussion in the gemara (Sanhedrin 67b) as to what to make of this anomaly. R' Akiva said there was one frog which filled the whole land (seemingly by giving birth to the other frogs). R' Elazer ben Azaria took offense, exclaiming, "Akiva, why do you bother to delve in aggada? Cease and return to the study of negaim and ohalos. There was one frog and it whistled to all its friends to join and they came."

Chasam Sofer is bothered by the tone of R' Elazar ben Azaria's remarks. There is certainly nothing in the pasuk itself that is in opposition to R' Akiva's interpretation. Why is he so turned off by his suggestion?

The gemara (Pesachim 53b) discusses the great miracle of Chananiah, Mishael and Azaria who were forced by Nevuchadnezzar to walk through a fiery furnace and came out alive. Todos ish Romi taught, "What led Cananiah Mishael and Azaria to walk through the fiery furnace (rather than bow down to an idol)? They reasoned that the frogs who are not obligated to sanctify God's name nevertheless jumped into the ovens of the Egyptians as part of the plague of frogs (7:28). Certainly, we who are obligated to sanctify God's name must surely make that sacrifice.

Chasam Sofer explains that if one frog gave birth to many, as R' Akiva suggested, than all those frogs were created solely for the purpose of this plague. If so, Chananiah Mishael and Azaria would have no basis for their reasoning. They, who have a purpose, could not derive from the frogs who had no other purpose but to jump into the ovens. Therefore, R' Elazar ben Azaria is vehemently opposed to R' Akiva's interpretation and explains that surely, these frogs who participated in the plague were in existence before the plague.

Interestingly, in coming up with the title for this shtikle on another occasion and choosing "Kamikaze Frogs," I actually discovered that the word Kamikaze is Japanese for "Divine Wind," which makes it even more appropriate than I had first thought.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Dikdukei Va'eira by Eliyahu Levin
Dikdukian: Leshon Yachid veRabbim by Eliayhu Levin

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