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Thursday, April 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

In Bemidbar 3 and 26 when Nadav and Avihu are mentioned, the pasuk recounts "vayamusu... bahikravam eish zara..." the pasuk recounts the specifics of their sin in bringing the ketores which they were not commanded to bring. However, here, it only says at the beginning of the parsha "b'karvasam ... vayamusu." The pasuk refers to their coming close to HaShem and their subsequent death but there is no specific mention of the aish zara as there is in the other references.

 

The reference to the death of Aharon's two sons is followed directly by the instruction of Aharon as to the proper procedure for entering the kodesh hakadashim on Yom Kippur. The procedure is briefly prefaced by the warning that one may not enter the kodesh hakadashim whenever they please. Rashi connects the two topics with the parable of the doctor who tells his patient, "Follow these directions so that you don't die the way so-and-so died." But what in fact is the connection between Nadav and Avihu's death and entering the kodesh hakadashim?

The simplest answer might be that according to Bar Kappara in the midrash, the actual sin of Nadav Avihu was entering the kodesh hakadashim. However, R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l, offers an answer which is concurrent with all the opinions in the midrash. There are quite a number of opinions quoted in the midrash as to the actual sin of Nadav Avihu. But with close examination, there emerges a pattern amongst all of them. The central theme seems to be that Nadav and Avihu were trying to reach a degree of closeness to HaShem which was beyond their reach. Their actions indicated a desire to become closer to HaShem but this yearning brought them to act inappropriately. Therefore, their actions serve as a lesson that there are limits when it comes to closeness to HaShem. This is the theme of the Yom Kippur avodah. A kohein gadol may not enter the Kodesh HaKadashim whenever he pleases, even if it is to become closer to HaShem. There is a time and place for this practice and it is on Yom Kippur only.

Perhaps this answers the original question. In this specific reference to the demise of Nadav and Avihu, we are not concerned with the actual actions that lead to their tragic death. We are merely concerned with the motives behind their actions and how they relate to the principal topic, the avodah of Yom Kippur.

Once again, the parsha provides us an insight which is most appropriate to our time. The main method by which we connect to HaShem is through tefillah and learning in shul. That has been taken away from us for now. Unfortunately, for some, this is too daunting a challenge and many have attempted to ignore the edicts of the medical community and the rabbanim. As many gedolim have made very clear, this irresponsible activity has the potential to be just as fatal – to many more people – as the actions of Nadav and Avihu. For us, the challenge of the day is to put limits on our attempts to become closer to HaShem and do so, to the best of our abilities, in our own home.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:


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Friday, April 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria / Metzora

Please continue to daven for Chaim Yitzchak ben Baila, Refael Elchanan Shimon ben Baila and Chaim Aryeh Z'ev ben Aidel besoch sh'ar cholei Yisrael.

 

One would have to say that if a rav is looking to connect the parsha to the present global situation in which most of us find ourselves in some degree of isolation, this week is pretty much a freebie. The parallels with the metzora procedure are nothing short of obvious. There are even some commentaries that suggest that although the tzara'as is brought on as a Divine punishment for specific sins, it is still contagious. However, there is a discussion regarding the laws of the metzora which draw even more intriguing connections.

 

We are told (13:46) that the metzora must be sent outside of the camps and must dwell alone, "badad yeisheiv." The commentaries note that tzara'as comes as a punishment for lashon hara, which comes as a result of engaging in idle chatter with one's friends and others. Therefore, the punishment is fitting that the metzora must be excommunicated so he cannot converse with his friends and thus, surely cannot tell any more lashon hara. This will give the opportunity to examine his sins and repent. According to this reasoning, it would seem that the metzora should be in total solitary confinement, without even the company of other metzoraim. This, however, is not so clear.

 

The first source that must be considered is an incident in Navi which is, in fact, the haftarah for parshas Metzora which we will not be reading this year, as is often the case. In Melachim II 7:3 we are told that there were four metzoraim at the gateway. In the events that ensue it is clear that these men were together. However, this a conclusive proof one way or the other for a number of reasons. First, Chaza"l (Sotah 47a, Sanhedrin 107b) tell us that these four men were Geichazi and his sons. In the sefer Nachalas Shimon (by Rabbi Shimon Krasner of Ner Yisroel) it is pointed out that if a metzora would require absolute solitary confinement it would be because it follows the laws of nidui, excommunication, in which no one may be within four amos of the menudeh. (Indeed, four amos is likely not far off from the six feet or two metres that have been mandated for physical distancing.) However, in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 334:2) it is stated clearly that even one who is in nidui may be with his wife and kids. Additionally, many commentaries point out that this particular instance of tzara'as is anomalous in that it was the result of a curse from Elisha that the tzara'as of Na'aman (see the haftarah of Tazria which is read even less often, just over 16% of all years) should inflict Geichazi and his sons.

Rashi, on the words "badad yeisheiv" writes that other temai'im should not dwell with him. This might seem to indicate that he does in fact require solitary confinement. However, Rashi's intent is made more clear in his commentary on the gemara in Pesachim (67a) which Rashi is quoting here. There it is clear that the meaning is that other "types" of temai'im such as zav and temei meis may not dwell with the metzora but it would seem that other metzoraim are allowed to dwell with him.

On this note, one of the more interesting stories I've read recently was that of a completely kosher minyan and dancing over Pesach – in a designated Coronavirus hotel where everyone was already ill with the virus.

Nachalas Shimon on Melachim II deals with this issue at length and the conclusion is that it seems to be permissible. Tzafnas Panei'ach, as well, reaches the conclusion that it is allowed. Malbim here also writes that a metzora may dwell with other metzoraim and he aligns this approach with the precise definition of the word badad, explaining that it implies a separation but not an absolute confinement for we see the word badad referring to an entire nation at once (Bemidbar 23:9).

Nevertheless, the sefer Minchah Belulah writes that metzoraim may not dwell with each other for they are not equals.

Have a chodesh tov and good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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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Friday, April 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

In this week's parsha, we learn of the tragic episode of Nadav and Avihu, two sons of Aharon who were killed when they brought a sacrifice which they were not commanded to bring. This is indeed a very fitting passage to be reading during this time as we continue to see great people succumbing to the virus that has overtaken much of the world – not to mention the (almost) yearly applicability as we begin to mourn the passing of the disciples of Rabbi Akiva. As the story begins, the pasuk (10:1) recounts, "And two sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, took..." I found it puzzling that they are first referred to as the sons of Aharon and only following that are they identified by their names. One might have expected the opposite.

After convincing the citizens of the city of Shechem to circumcise themselves, Shimon and Levi return three days later and wipe out all of the males. There too, (Bereishis 34:25) they are referred to as "the two sons of Yaakov, Shimon and Levi."

At the beginning of Parshas Korach (Bemidbar 16:1), when Korach's entourage is enumerated, we are introduced to Dasan and Aviram by name for the very first time. They are indeed referred to as "Dasan and Aviram, the sons of Eliav." I am no longer sure which is the exception and which is the rule but perhaps the following thought may explain this discrepancy:

Although the actions of Yaakov and Aharon's sons were met with sharp opposition or death, each group acted with a considerable degree of good intentions. Shimon and Levi's attack on the city of Shechem was hardly an act of selfishness. They were defending their sister and the honour of their father. Although Yaakov ultimately chastised them for their angry attack, their decision was clearly fuelled by noble, selfless intentions.

Nadav and Avihu, as well, were overcome by the Divine presence and the great miracles that were an integral part of the consecration of the mishkan. They brought their sacrifice because they were inspired to do so and as kohanim, the sons of Aharon, they felt it was the proper thing to do. Although both the sons of Aharon and the sons of Yaakov made incorrect judgements, the Torah's recount of their deeds alludes to the virtuous intentions behind their actions by first reaffirming their prestigious pedigree. Dasan and Aviram, contrarily, were driven by selfish motives. Being the sons of Eliav is therefore considered insignificant with respect to their names. They are therefore listed with their names first, indicative of the driving forces behind their actions.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Lehavdil

Daily Leaf:

:מ Do thoughts have language?

.מ"א One last thing

 


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Wednesday, April 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

I felt the following thought is particularly pertinent this year when so many of us are confined to some degree of isolation and will not be part of the larger seder we are used to – some even conducting the seder in solitude. Please continue to daven for all of the cholim. Yom Tov hi miliz'ok, urfuah kerovah lavo.

In the beginning of Maggid, we recite "Avadim hayinu." In this paragraph, we say that if not for the fact that HaKadosh Baruch Hu had taken us out of Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Therefore, even if we are all wise, understanding knowers of the Torah, we have a mitzvah to tell over the story of yetzias Mitzrayim. To say that there are two questions to be asked on this paragraph would surely not be the whole truth. However, there are two questions on which I wish to focus. First, why would we have thought that wise sages would be exempt from the mitzvah? Second, how does the haggadah in fact justify this requirement?

As an introduction, I would like to quote a piece from R' Chaim Kanievsky on Chanukah, found in Ta'ama D'kra. He asks why there is no mention of the miracle of the oil in the text of "Al HaNisim." He answers that the theme of Al HaNisim is hoda'ah, giving thanks. When it comes to giving thanks, the obligation only exists regarding an event by which one is directly affected. For a miracle that only truly benefited those at the time and has no effect on us now, there is no obligation of hoda'ah. We find that Sukkos is built around the miracle of HaShem's protecting us. However, since this miracle does not affect us today, we don't find any specific requirements of hoda'ah on Sukkos. So, too, the miracle of the oil has no direct effect on us today. On the other hand, had B'nei Yisrael been destroyed in the war, we would not be around today. Therefore, we must give thanks for the winning of the war.

Perhaps, what the paragraph of "Avadim Hayinu" is teaching us is that we might have thought that the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is strictly an educational one, that there is an obligation for the wise to teach those who do not know as the main source of this mitzvah is "vehigadta levincha," a requirement for the father to teach the son. Had this been so, if we were all wise sages, there would be no need to do this mitzvah for no one needs to be educated. However, this is not so. Attached to the mitzvah of sipur yetzias Mitzrayim is the very pertinent theme of hoda'ah. We are not merely telling a story. We are expressing thanks and appreciation to HaShem for yetzias Mitzrayim, whether we've learned about it previously or not. The haggadah, therefore, starts by illustrating how the miracle affects us today, that if not for yetzias Mitzrayim, we would still be beholden to Paroah in Mitzrayim. Because of this, there is an obligation to thank HaShem and therefore all of us are commanded to tell the story of yetzias Mitzrayim.

Have a chag kasher ve'sameiach and a good Shabbos!

 

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


Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Hagieinu vs Yagieinu

Dikdukian: Chad Gadya

Daily Leaf: ל"ג: Yaakov and Rashb"i


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Friday, April 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav / Shabbas HaGadol

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for my uncle, Chaim Yitzchak ben Baila, and his brother, Refael Elchanan Shimon ben Baila, as well as my wife's uncle, Yehoshua ben Leah Faiga, besoch sh'ar cholei Yisrael.

As parshas Tzav is one of the more difficult parshios to write about, the natural fallback – as has been the case for myself, as well – is to discuss the korban todah, special version of the shelamim which has extra accompanying breads and is confined to a shorter timespan for eating. There is a well-known mnemonic, provided by the Shulchan Aruch (OC 219:1) for the four people who are required to bring this korban: "vehcol hachayim yoducha selah." The word חיים stands for חבוש, יסורים, ים, מדבר: a released prisoner, someone who was sick, someone who traversed the sea of the dessert. It is interesting to note the simplicity of the word that serves as the mnemonic – hachayim, the living. Indeed, it is only the more extreme circumstances that require the korban to be brought. But in celebrating the great, overt miracles, we reflect on life itself and realize how every day we have on this earth is a gift. Once we enter a mode of giving praise and thanks, we are able to have deeper appreciation for the little things.

 

In a previous shtikle for seder night, we have also discussed how we, as a nation, actually fit all four categories in our exodus from Egypt and sojourn towards Eretz Yisrael. Pesach, and more specifically, the seder, provides yet another opportunity to celebrate the large miracles and at the same time, appreciate the smaller things we might take for granted like freedom from oppression.

 

The current situation in which we find ourselves has provided many opportunities to hear insights from various different speakers, each with their own perspective on the circumstances affecting all of us. One of the ideas I found particularly inspiring was to take time to appreciate that while these are very trying times which are certainly testing in many ways, there are so many aspects we should appreciative of. We may need to celebrate Pesach alone, but at least we are allowed to celebrate Pesach. We cannot go to shul to daven or to learn. But no one is stopping us (other than perhaps a child or two jumping on our head) from doing so at home. We are not being chased by Nazis, Cossacks or the Inquisition. In a slightly different twist from the themes of the korban todah and Pesach, sometimes it takes being prevented and prohibited from some of the things we take for granted to appreciate all of the plenty we are blessed with.

 

Wishing everyone a healthy Shabbos and Yom Tov.

 

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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

Dikdukian: Kesev vs. Keves


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