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Friday, July 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This past Thursday, 15 Tammuz, was the 16th yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Yeres, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander HaLevi.

The previous day was the 32nd yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l, the first Rosh HaYeshivah of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel. 

Shabbos, 17 Tammuz, is the 20th yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel.

The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasam.

 

At the beginning of this week's parsha, we find that Moav is frightened of B'nei Yisrael because of what they did to Sichon. Many are bothered by the fact that B'nei Yisrael are commanded not to wage war with Moav. So they need not have worried. However, it is unclear to me how exactly Moav would have known that. But I was once asked a more intriguing question concerning Balak's entire approach to B'nei Yisrael. Sichon met his demise only because he started up with B'nei Yisrael. B'nei Yisrael clearly had no intentions of war with Sichon and he was the one who came out and attacked. As long as Balak avoids a confrontation, what does he have to be afraid of? If he simply leaves B'nei Yisrael alone, his country is in no danger whatsoever.

 

Perhaps what frightened Moav was that they observed that as soon as B'nei Yisrael requested a passage through Sichon's land, that is when everything started to fall apart for him. Indeed, Sichon started the war, but what was he supposed to do? How is a country supposed to see such a request as a friendly gesture? The way Balak saw it, as soon as B'nei Yisrael asks for permission to go through the land, it means trouble. Now, in the parsha we are not told that any such request was sent to Moav. However, in the haftara of Chukas (Shoftim 11:17) we find that messengers were sent to Moav as well with the same request. Perhaps the episode of Balak happened after these messengers were sent and that is why he became frightened. When Balak saw his nation following the same course of events as that of Sichon, he felt threatened and saw fit to take preemptive action.

 

However, there is a much simpler approach to Balak's actions which teaches a great lesson. Perhaps Balak was simply misinformed and misguided. B'nei Yisrael's trouncing of Sichon's army had them looking like the aggressors at the end of the day. B'nei Yisrael began to be looked upon as a force of terror ripping through the region. Balak was not aware, or did not allow himself to be aware that B'nei Yisrael had no intentions of any involvement with him whatsoever. This whole parsha is therefore a clear example of ma'aseh avos siman labanim, a harbinger of events to follow for many generations. Throughout history, Jews have always been vilified on false pretenses. But in our days it is most glaringly evident. After the Holocaust there was an atmosphere of pity for the Jewish people and the State of Israel was a direct outgrowth thereof. But that only lasted for a fleeting moment. Israel has been blessed by HaShem with the strongest and most successful of armies. With the Divine gift of power and might, they have crushed their enemies to bitter defeat. But suddenly, we are looked upon as aggressors. Each war was a defensive battle but yet, we are looked upon as instigators and subsequently, occupiers. In sweeping, defensive attacks against terrorists, we are seen as terrorists ourselves. The incidence of misguided public opinion is far too great and far too obvious to even bother enumerating examples.  As we see in our parsha, this is old news. As the generations pass it seems evident that the Jews will always be misunderstood and misjudged in the public eye. It is something we will just have to live with.

 

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

 

Friday, July 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

Today, 9 Tammuz, is the 4th yahrtzeit of my sister-in-law, Batsheva Yeres. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Batsheva Blima, a"h bas HaRav Moshe Yosef HaLevi, ybl"t.

 

Towards the end of this week's parsha, B'nei Yisrael are confronted by Sichon and his mighty army (21:1-3). B'nei Yisrael made a vow to HaShem. The vow itself is cause for discussion in and of itself. In the end, HaShem delivered them and they defeated the Canaanites and destroyed their cities. They then named the place of their battle Charmah, destruction.

 

Charmah - that should sound familiar. Only two parshios ago, a small group from B'nei Yisrael rose up and charged towards Eretz Yisrael in an attempt to vindicate themselves for the sin of the spies which had doomed them to 40 years in the desert. As we know (14:45) They were quickly wiped out by the Amalekites and Canaanites who dwelt on the mountain and were beaten unto HaCharmah. Rashi comments that the place was named for the events that transpired there, namely the destruction of that group from B'nei Yisrael. Being that the battle site in this week's parsha was named on the spot, it is safe to assume that these were not the same place.

 

I believe the identical names given to these places is surely no coincidence. The Charmah of Shelach was named for a tragic destruction of a group of over-zealous fighters. More importantly, it symbolized that HaShem had put His final stamp on the 40-year decree. It became clear that no act of repentance could possibly overturn the decree. The aron stayed put and did not go out to accompany the fighters, thus devoiding them of Divine protection. This defeat brought home the reality of B'nei Yisrael's failure.

 

It was now many years later. Most of B'nei Yisrael was now made up of those who would merit to enter Eretz Yisrael. This was the first battle that B'nei Yisrael would fight since that fateful defeat at the hands of Amaleik and Canaan. It did not get off to a good start, either. But B'nei Yisrael endured with prayer and devotion and through their prayers HaShem led them to victory over their adversaries. This battle symbolized the turnaround from the previous generation. The dramatic defeat of decades ago made the clear statement to their forebearers that they would not enter Eretz Yisrael. Contrarily, this dramatic victory over Sichon indicated that the conquest of Eretz Yisrael had begun. To accentuate this turnaround, they named the site of this great battle the very same name as the site of the previous battle. The name of the site where B'nei Yisrael were once smitten by the Amalekites and Canaanites was now the very same name of the place where they devastated Sichon and his army on their way to entering Eretz Yisrael.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: It wasn't thrown


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 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

One of the more intriguing challenges in understanding the uprising led by Korach is putting a finger on exactly what Korach's main complaint was. What was he objecting to and what did he seek to gain? The words of Korach himself don't provide very much detail but one of Moshe's response is more telling. (16:10) "HaShem has brought you and your bretheren, the sons of Levi, closer and now you also want kehunah." It appears Korach desired to be a kohein as well.

 

However, Rashi (16:1) provides his own assessment of Korach's raison d'être. He was jealous of the appointment of Elitzaphan ben Uziel as the nasi of the children of Kehas. Korach staked a claim based on his father, Yitzhar, being older than Uziel. This, of course, begs the question: which one was it?

 

Gur Aryeh offers a reconciliation of Rashi's words and what Moshe later says to Korach. It was really the appointment of Elitzaphan that was fueling Korach's revolt. However, his confrontation with Moshe could not survive without a significant following. He needed to bring a large group behind him in order to be able to make a convincing argument. If his platform was nothing but objecting to the appointment of Elitzaphan, it would have been seen as a completely selfish endeavor. He could not possibly gather a following. So, he made the movement about "the people," the Levite people, at least. His campaign to oppose Moshe therefore became about the kehunah so that he could build a following of men who – at least as far as they were aware – shared his goals.

 

Perhaps another understanding can be offered. When Korach's confrontation with Moshe came to be, it was, in fact, about the kehunah. Rashi is not coming to explain what the final showdown was about but rather, how it came to be. What was it that fueled Korach to begin with? It wasn't as big the kehunah. Korach was upset about the appointment of Elitzaphan which, itself, might not have created such a significant kerfuffle. But, as jealousy tends to do, Korach's feelings got the most of him and led him to object to Moshe's leadership on a much grander scale.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Just do it!
Dikdukian: Flee Market
Dikdukian: Vayikach Korach


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