The Weekly Shtikle Blog

An online forum for sharing thoughts and ideas relating to the Parshas HaShavua

View Profile

Friday, October 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini Atzeres / Koheles

This week's shtikle is dedicated for a refuah sheleimah for Chaya Sara bas Tzirel and Yoel Aharon ben Chaya Sara besoch she'ar cholei Yisrael.


In the book of Koheles, which we read tomorrow, Shelomoh HaMelech declares, (10:8) "He who breaches the fence shall be bitten by the snake." The term poreitz geder, the breacher of the fence, is often used to refer to someone who defies a decree or ordinance of Chaza"l, as indicated by Rashi on this pasuk. The penalty for this defiance is the venomous bite of the snake.


But perhaps Shelomoh HaMelech is coming to teach us much more than a matter of crime and punishment. There is a greater lesson to be learned. In the earlier generations, a man walking freely in a proverbial field might have been subjected to certain spiritual dangers. The chachamim therefore put up various boundaries and fences to keep these dangers out. A good example of this would be the laws of muktzah. The chachamim also instituted certain proactive laws, such as the laws of tefillah, to better define the life of a Jew in a manner necessary for the time. As generations pass, the defiant one might approach these fences. He might look over and see no danger in the distance. Questioning the need for these barriers, he breaks down the fences that were built in generations past. But his presumptuous actions prove costly, for he does not see the clear picture his predecessors did before erecting these fences. He might see on his eye level or slightly below and determine that there is no danger. But it is the low-lying creatures, the snakes that he cannot see from behind the fence, that are waiting there to attack.


Shelomoh HaMelech is teaching us that someone who fails to heed the decrees of Chaza"l, and other sages who have preceded him, assumes that he is fully aware of their deep calculation in establishing these decrees. He doesn't realize that there might be more to them than meets the eye. This is not a punishment. It is simply a matter of fact. We must approach these aspects of our laws with utmost faith and trust that they saw further and deeper than we, lest we stumble and fall prey to the very dangers they set out to protect us from.


Pesach provides much opportunity for us to explore the prohibitive components of this idea in the many strict prohibitions set forth by the sages to protect us from consuming chameitz. One might not understand why we can't eat corn if the Torah told us not to eat chameitz. But there were some very serious concerns at the time and the gravity of the chameitz prohibition was deemed far too risky to take chances. Sukkos, however, gives us a window into the proactive realm of rabbinic ordinances. The seven days of lulav shaking is not a Torah decree but rather a zeicher lamikdash, instituted by Raban Yochanan ben Zakai (Rosh HaShanah 30a). The hoshanos ceremony, Hoshana Rabba itself and certainly Simchas Torah are great examples of how our yearly practices have been shaped by the prophets and sages before us.

But this year, we are able to see the prohibitive aspects during this time as well. Although we are clearly instructed in the Torah to blow the shofar on Rosh HaShanah and take the lulav on Sukkos, the sages decreed that this should not be done when Yom Tov fallsout on Shabbos. Although the reasoning behind these decrees might be difficult to understand, we follow them to the letter, trusting that the sages knew what lay behind the fence.


This year's events provide a new perspective to this idea. Our lives have been turned upside down by a virus which was completely unknown and medical experts still have not figured out. Guidance and regulations were evolving at an unmanageable pace. Presumably all of us have altered our daily routines in many ways to accommodate what ultimately amounts to precautions upon precautions in order to prevent the spread. But as we adhere to these safeguards in our mundane lives, as well is in our routine religious practices and accept their apparent necessities, we must take pause to examine our approach to the edicts of our sages before us and ensure that we treat them with at least equal reverence and respect.


A rav here in Baltimore suggested quite intriguingly that there is extra hashgachah in that which the events of this pandemic occurred in a year such as this. The rabbanim of this and all other cities have toiled for hours upon hours on numerous occasions to deliberate on the proper way to balance the need to maintain our sacred traditions while ensuring the safety of the public and the adherence to local regulations. Each and every decision – from the larger ones such as closing shuls to the seemingly smaller ones like how to conduct kol hane'arim – is given such tremendous weight. Perhaps this was meant to give us greater appreciation for the process that must have gone into the decision to forego shofar and lulav when Yom Tov falls out on Shabbos. Appreciating these heavy decisions will help ensure that we do not take them lightly.


Have a good Shabbos and good Yom Tov.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Do you sea what I sea

Dikdukian: And the Days Was
Dikdukian: Come on, people!

Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites,

The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on



Post a Comment

<< Home