The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, May 24

The Weekly Shtikle - Behar

In the section dealing with our obligation to reach out and come to the aid of our neighbour, there is a glaring discrepancy, pointed out by Meshech Chachmah, in two adjacent pesukim. The first deals with the ger toshav, a non-Jew who has sworn off avodah zarah but is not subject to all of our mitzvos. We are commanded to support him in his time of need. The pasuk (25:35) ends off, "vachai imach." The next pasuk, dealing with the prohibition of charging interest, ends of, "vechei achicha imach." The message seems almost the same but the word vachai turns into vechei.

Meshech Chachmah explains the difference between these two similar terms. One might summarize it as follows: Chei is to live whereas chai is life itself. We find the word chai used with respect to HaShem, as in "Chai HaShem," because He embodies everlasting lifeThe word chei is used with respect to more fleeting life, such as Yoseif's use of the term "chei Par'oah." 

When we support our neighbour, the ger toshav, it is far more than providing financial stability. Since he has not accepted the full burden of all mitzvos, his sole source of "everlasting life" is his connection to our community. If we do not come to his aid, he will surely stray and give up the life he had chosen. Therefore, reaching out to him is indeed providing him with everlasting life.

The second pasuk refers to achicha, your Jewish brother. He therefore already merits the "everlasting life" by virtue of his service of HaShem and acceptance of all mitzvos, a pact he surely cannot alleviate himself of under any circumstances. Therefore, our financial support, however mandatory, is simply providing superficial, physical life. And so, the word chei is used instead.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
DIkdukian: Hearing Los

Dikdukian: How Lo Can You Go?

Dikdukian: Even Lo-er

Dikdukian: Liife as We Know It
Dikdukian: 
A name that took ME by surprise


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Friday, May 17

The Weekly Shtikle - Emor

On another occasion we have discussed some interesting perspectives on the meaning of the term sefiras ha'omer and the role it plays in connecting Pesach to Shavuos. I recently saw an intriguing perspective from Noam Jacobson, whose creative videos continue to entertain while providing deep insights on the parsha on a weekly basis.

In our parsha, the name of the upcoming chag is not even mentioned. We are simply told (23:16) that it is after counting 50 days from the bringing of the korban omer. Even a date is not provided as Shavuos could technically fall on any one of three days before we had a set calendar. In this sense, Shavuos represents the holiday which is the dominion of man. We are in control of the date on which it falls.

Conversely, he understands the word omer – as used as a measurement – to be a callback to the omer per person that was collected of the mann each morning. The mann represents our complete and utter reliance on HaShem for all of our sustenance.

We may now understand Shavuos as the perfect confluence of our own handiwork and that of HaShem. We are commanded to bring two loaves of bread as an offering – loaves which we ourselves have produced by cutting wheat, grinding it into flour, kneading and baking it. As we offer it as a korban we are reminded of the lesson of the mann that no matter how much toil we put in to our sustenance, it is ultimately all from the grace of HaShem.

(I highly recommend viewing Noam Jacobson's far more entertaining presentation on his YouTube page.)

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Ner Tamid

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Friday, May 10

The Weekly Shtikle - Kedoshim

As we have mentioned many times, Kedoshim contains the most mitzvos per pasuk of any other parsha – 51 mitzvos in only 64 pesukim. The potpourri of various types of mitzvos really runs the gamut. However, there is one aspect of the parsha that stood out to me, going through the parsha. With the apparent lack of direct connection between the mitzvos discussed, one might have expected more divisions between the pesukim with a samech or peh. However, you have to go quite far in the parsha before you encounter the first break. Contrast this with Mishpatim, for example, where there are many breaks between the pesukim.

I wasn't quite sure where to even look for someone who discusses this but I have come up with a basic, rough idea as a theory of my own. There is a well-known discussion between the commentaries – Rashi and Ramban foremost – about the exact definition of kedoshim. This is understanding the term as a specific idea which stands on its own. However, we can also understand the kedushah as that which is attained through the performance of all of the mitzvos, each adding to one's level of kedushah.

Perhaps this idea is conveyed in the inclusion of so many mitzvos in one block without a break. This allows us to understand the leading pasuk of our parsha not (just) as a commandment unto itself but as a means of introduction to everything that follows.

 

 

In case you hadn't heard, this shabbos we read the rarest of all haftaros – one we haven't read in 27 years. It is read on average only once every 17 years. This concludes the Year of the Rare Parsha (as explained in the linked article.) Also, see this entertaining shiur by Rabbi Dovid Heber for more insight.

 

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: A Revealing Note

Al Pi Cheshbon: Omer Counting in Different Bases


Please visit the new portal for all Shtikle-related sites, 
www.weeklyshtikle.com

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Friday, May 3

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos

In this week's first parsha we are told (18:5) "You shall keep My statues and My ordinances which, if a man does, he shall live by them." In the gemara (Sanhedrin 74a) we are taught that from the phrase "vachai bahem," and he shall live by them, we are to infer that one is meant to live by the mitzvos and not die for them. Thus, if one is put in a position where he has to choose between death and the transgression of a mitzvah, he should transgress rather than be killed. Of course, there are three exceptions to this rule. The strangely ironic part about the pasuk from our parsha is that it appears in the introduction to the passage dealing with the prohibitions of illicit relationships which is one of those very three. The Torah is telling us that we need not sacrifice our lives for the mitzvos just before it goes into lengthy detail regarding a mitzvah for which we must.

 

The mishnah (Berachos 33b) teaches that one who beseeches HaShem's mercy "like the mercy He has on the bird's nest" is silenced. One of the reasons given in the gemara is that this person is erroneously painting HaShem's ways with the broad brush of mercy. We do not understand the true motivation behind each and every mitzvah and it is wrong for us to assume that HaShem leans towards a specific trait.

 

Perhaps, this message is being conveyed here. The limitation excusing transgressions in the face of death might lead us to understand the Torah as inherently lenient. Conversely, the requirement to sacrifice one's life rather than transgress one of the three cardinal sins might lead us to understand the Torah as overly strict, putting human life in second place. But neither is true. The Torah puts these ideas together in the very same passage in order to impress on us that very idea. The laws are all decrees from Above and not indicative of any inherent leniency or stringency.


Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: A Revealing Note
Dikdukian: Stand up, goat!
Dikdukian: Mitum'os: Watch that plural

Dikdukian: Qualification of the AHOY rule


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

 

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Monday, April 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Leil Seder

For this year's thought on the Pesach seder, I wish to focus on a pasuk which is not traditionally part of the "meat and potatoes" of the Haggadah and was only added around the 12th century, possibly as a response to the devastating crusades. It has recently gained more prominence and recognition as it is featured the ominous perek 79 of Tehillim which has become a common part of the rotation since the tragic events of Shemini Atzeres.

We open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi and recite (Tehillim 79:6-7, followed by two pesukim from elsewhere in Kesuvim) "Shefoch chamascha el hagoyim asher lo yeda'ucha, v'al mamlachos asher beshimcha lo kara'u." We beseech HaShem to pour out his wrath upon the nations who do not know Him, and the kingdoms who do not call His name. I was puzzled by the use of el hagoyim vs. al mamalachos. Intriguingly, any commentaries I could find that address the usage of el and al suggest that they are more or less interchangeable. (Try asking for a ticket on an Al El flight and see where that gets you.) But why use different words in the very same pasuk? (It should be noted that this pasuk has a nearly identical mirror in Yirmiyahu 10:25 in which the word al is used both times.)

Perhaps the precise wording can be explained as follows: el denotes towards, in the direction of, whereas al means directly upon. We ask that HaShem mete out retribution towards the nations – the common folk who do not know HaShem but perhaps might still maintain an inkling of innocence and might still deserve the opportunity to repent. This is a somewhat softer tone. On the mamlachos – the kingdoms, I.e. the leadership – we ask that HaShem heap his anger directly upon them. They are the true source of the evil that confronts us and their due should come more swiftly and precisely. It is in fact this approach which – to some degree – governs the very delicate operation we are currently engaged in. There is a sinister entity which can be afforded nothing more than complete demise. At the same time, there is a nation in their midst – by no means innocent – but perhaps not deserved of the same fate.

Despite the apparent fit of this interpretation with the words, it is interesting to note that the plagues in Egypt seemed to follow a diametrically opposite pattern. Many plagues took a heavier toll on the citizens of Egypt than they did on Paroah himself.

Have a chag kasher ve'sameiach!


Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

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

Dikdukian: Shiras HaLevi'im

Dikdukian: Hagieinu vs Yagieinu

Dikdukian: Chad Gadya 


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The Weekly Shtikle and related content are now featured on BaltimoreJewishLife.com


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Friday, April 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

This past Wednesday, 2 Nissan, marked the 18th yahrtzeit of my Bubbie. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

 

Today, 4 Nissan, marks the 6th yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Rebbetzin Faigie Frankel. The shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Leah Feiga bas Aharon Tzvi.

 

In this week's parsha we are taught about the laws concerning tzara'as that is found on the walls of one's house. There is an intriguing difficulty found in pasuk 14:37, "Vera'a es hanega vehineh hanega b`kiros habayis sheka'aruros yerakrakos o adamdamos umar'eihen shafal min hakir." First, the nega is referred to in the singular. However, in the rest of the pasuk it is described in the plural.

R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, gives a fascinating, yet somewhat complicated answer in the name of R' Nota Greenblatt, zt"l, (of Memphis, Tennessee). We are taught in the gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) that the required size of the tzara'as on the house is the size of two beans whereas other negaim require only one bean. One may deliberate on the following point: Is it that the required size of nig'ei batim is twice that of other negaim or that nig'ei batim requires two negaim? The difference between the two is illustrated with the precise language used by the Rambam. He writes, in regular cases of tzaa'as, that a nega smaller than a bean is "not a nega." However, in the laws of nig'ei batim, he writes that if the spot is less than two beans, it is tahor. The implication is that it is still considered a nega, but is nevertheless tahor since it hasn't reached the required size. [The halachic ramifications of this specification arise in connection with the gemara in Shabbos that states that the prohibition of cutting tzara'as out of one's skin applies even to a nega tahor.]

 

It seems from the Rambam that the proper interpretation would be the second, that nig'ei batim require two nega'im of total size two beans. Therefore, if the spot is less than two beans, it is still a nega, only it is tahor. This, suggests R' Nota, is the explanation for the change in the pasuk from singular to plural. In the beginning, we are referring to the spot as a whole. However, since in essence we are dealing with two negaim, the pasuk describes them in the plural.

 

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Of note: this Shabbos, we will read the haftara of Tazria for the first time in 21 years.

 

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah (see Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: White Hair

Dikdukian: Meaining of "kibus" by Eliyahu Levin

Dikdukian: Various Dikduk Observations by Eliyahu Levin

 

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Friday, April 5

The Weekly Shtikle - Shemini

A slightly overdue book plug: I am happy to inform of the release of a wonderful biography of my father, z"l, written by my niece, Rikki Ash. Canada's Rabbi: The Life and Legacy of Rabbi Reuven Bulka is available from Ktav and Amazon.

 

This Monday, erev rosh chodesh Nisan, there will be a full solar eclipse visible to many different major cities in the US. There will not be another such event in this part of the world for another 20 years. Please check out a piece I wrote a number of years ago, Eclipses in Halachah and Machshavah.

 

The pasuk states (9:7) regarding Aharon's personal chatas offering that it should be an atonement for him and for the nation. R' Moshe Mintz of Ner Yisroel asks why Aharon's korban involved an atonement for the nation. Ohr HaChaim answers that Aharon's involvement in the sin of the golden calf was brought about by the nation who coerced him into aiding them in the making of the golden calf. Therefore, the nation could not achieve a full atonement until Aharon, for whom they were responsible, achieved his own atonement.

 

Rabbi Mintz explains the important lesson that is learned from this. We must be ever so careful with all our actions within the kahal for all of our actions have a spiritual effect on the kahal as a whole. If one were to (chas ve'shalom) have a part in leading another to sin through his actions, full atonement can only come once all involved have achieved atonement.  

 

Have a good Shabbos and chodesh tov.

Mishenichnas Adar marbim b'simchah!

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:

Dikdukian: Lehavdil

 

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

 

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