The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

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Friday, February 24

פרשת משפטים - Trivia

A great trivia question for this week's parsha and anybody learning Makkos, courtesy of HaRav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l:

The law of עדים זוממים states that a witness who attempted to make his friend pay a certain amount of money and he is found to be lying and goes through the necessary process of הזמה he must pay the money himself. It is generally assumed that he pays the one he tried to make pay. But what is the source for this? Maybe he should pay בית דין. [For a real challenge stop reading here.]

Said R' Yisroel Salanter, the answer is in Rashi in this week's parsha. And you could go through the entire parsha, and still not find it. Happy hunting! (I'll post the answer as a comment later next week.)

פרשת משפטים - To help or not to help

In this week's parsha, we are commanded to come to the aid of our fellow Jew whose donkey is crouching under his burden and needs help to load it on. The Torah chooses a rather interesting way of delivering this mitzvah. The pasuk reads simply (23:5) "If you shall see the donkey of someone you hate crouching beneath his burden and you refrain from aiding him, you surely aid him."

The first point to consider is that the Torah presents the case of a donkey belonging to one who is hated. We learn from here that if we are faced with two such situations, one involving a friend and one involving an enemy, the Torah commands us to help out the one whom you hate in order to suppress your instinctual inclinations and force a friendship to be made.

The second puzzling part of the pasuk is the seemingly gratuitous phrase "vechadalta mei'azov lo," and you will refrain from helping him. What does the Torah mean by this phrase? The gemara learns from here that there are times when you are in fact expected not to help out. For instance, if you are an elderly man and it is not respectful or if you are a kohein and the donkey is in a cemetery. However, this does not seem to fit in as the simple reading of the pasuk. Rashi writes that it is an rhetorical question, "should you refrain from helping him ?!" However, it is also difficult to understand the pasuk in this way.

R' Chaim Kunyevsky writes in Ta'ama D'kra that the reason for this phrase is connected to the aforementioned lesson learned from the pasuk. The Torah tells you to help out your enemy in order to break your hatred. This would therefore only apply if under normal circumstances you would not have helped him. Thus, the Torah says, when you see you enemy's donkey and, under normal circumstances you would have neglected to help him, then and only then do you help him before your friend. If you would have helped him anyway then there is no reason he should precede your friend.

שבת שלום

Friday, February 17

פרשת יתרו - Stranger in a Strange Land

At the beginning of this week's parsha we are once again given the reason behind the naming of Gershom : "Ki ger hayisi b'eretz nochria", because I was a stranger in a strange land. Here the explanation of Eliezer's name is given as well, "Ki elokei avi b'ezri, vayatzileini micherev paroah", apparently referring to Moshe's escape from execution at the hands of Paroah. At first glance, these names seem to be out of order. The cause for the naming of Gershom seems to have been preceded by that of Eliezer. Moshe was a stranger in Midyan after he escaped from the hands of Paroah. My Rebbe from Eretz Yisroel, R' Yeshaya Greenwald suggests that perhaps there is a different explanation behind Gershom's name. In the years leading up to Gershom's birth, Moshe realized that although he seemed at home in Egypt as a prince and leading quite a good life, he was nevertheless a stranger in a strange land. So "Ki ger hayisi..." is in fact referring to Moshe's years in Mitzrayim rather than those in Midyan. This explanation is supported by the fact that Moshe says "Ki ger hayisi," in the past tense, even while he is still living in Midyan (2:22).

Another interesting point concerning the naming of Gershom and Eliezer: For Gershom it says "vesheim ha'echad Gershom". And than for Eliezer, "vesheim ha'echad Eliezer". One would have expected the use of ordinal numbers such as "Sheim Harishon... vesheim hasheni" in this case. Why are they both referred to as "ha'echad"? R' Greenwald suggests that the answer may lie in the Midrash on the pasuk (2:22) "Vayoel Moshe" which states that Moshe made a pact with his father-in-law to give his first son to Avodah Zarah (or some manifestation thereof.) Therefore, Gershom was the "ben ha'echad," the one son for Avoda Zarah and Eliezer was the "ben ha'echad" laShem.

Perhaps the answer to the second question could be used to answer the first. Since Moshe had this pact with Yisro, he didn't want to mention any specific praise of HaShem which would convey to Yisro that he had not kept to the deal. Therefore, Gershom was given a more generic, religion-less name while Moshe waited until his second child to mention the praise of HaShem for saving him from Paroah's sword but it indeed did come first.

שבת שלום

Friday, February 10

פרשת בשלח - Bickering

The second to last of the many episodes that make up this week's parsha is the confrontation at מסה ומריבה. B'nei Yisroel quarrelled with Moshe saying, "Give us water so that we may drink!" Moshe counters "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test HaShem?"
אבן עזרא explains that there were two distinct groups involved in this episode. The first group were truly in need of water and this led to their altercation with Moshe. However, there was another group that still had water which they brought Alush (their previous stop as per במדבר לג:יד). They wanted to challenge HaShem to see if He would provide water. To the first group, Moshe answered "Why do you quarrel with me?" To the second, he charged, "Why do you test HaShem?"
The site is therefore aptly named מסה ומריבה after the two separate aspects of the confrontation. However, notes אבן עזרא, the second group surely angered HaShem more than the first. Thus, in דברים ו:ט"ז we are warned "Do not challenge HaShem as you did at Masah." Merivah is not mentioned.

שבת שלום

Monday, February 6

ספר שמות - Moses and the Bush, להבדיל

Moshe proclaims to השם:
כִּי כְבַד-פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן אָנכִי

An overwhelming majority of the commentaries understand this to mean that Moshe had a speech impedement. There is a well-known approach of דרשות הר"ן as to why this was. He explains that the saviour of בני ישראל was to deliver them through the power of the word of God. Had the deliverance come from a smooth-talking, influential, powerul speaker (like Charlton Heston, perhaps - again - להבדיל) history would look back on the Exodus and attribute the efficiency and success of its execution in some way to the personal qualities of the saviour. Moshe's impedement made it perfectly clear that the only reason why an entire nation recognized him as their leader and marched out of Egypt with him was because he spoke the word of God.

One of the common observations of today's political climate in the United States is how polarized it is. The divide between the two parties seems to be rapidly widening idealogically and diplomatically. One of the common reasons given for this is that the President is so firm and steadfast in his beliefs that one is forced to either strongly agree with him or vehemently oppose him.

I am not coming to argue with this approach. But it recently occurred to me that perhaps the approach of the ר"ן can be used to explain this modern-day phenomenon. It is no secret that the President is not a very smooth public speaker. Previous presidents such as "The Great Communicator", Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton had the power to win people over with their charm, even if they did not particularly care for their politics. Thus their group of supporters would include individuals at all sorts of levels of agreement with their policies. President Bush is not so fortunate. He is often ridiculed for his verbal foul-ups and misspeaks. His delivery, with his Texan style, can be comic at times. However, for this reason, his followers are, for the most part, standing behind him for no other reason other than support for his policies and beliefs. The line between approval and disapproval are more clearly drawn than ever before and perhaps that is a large contributor to our hostile political environment.

Friday, February 3

פרשת בא - The good, the bad, and the wonderful

Moshe tells בני ישראל,
וְהָיָה כִּי יאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם: מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת, לָכֶם... וַיִּקֹּד הָעָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ
רש"י quotes the מכילתא that they bowed in appreciation of three things: the forthcoming exodus, the eventual entrance into ארץ ישראל and the kids they were going to have. What is bothersome about this רש"י is that in the הגדה, we use this passage to refer to the wicked SON of the four sons. Why then were בני ישראל bowing in appreciation of being told of the wicked sons they were going to have?

What I think might be the simple 'פשט' answer is that there is indeed a מחלוקת in the מכילתא on the previous pasuk. One opinion is that IT is referring to the wicked son. This is obviously the opinion that is adopted in the הגדה. But there is another opinion that it is referring to sons in general. Perhaps רש"י is simply in concurrence with that second opinion.
ספר רש"י השלם quotes from the תוספות השלם that the designation of this passage as the one referring to the wicked son comes only in comparison to the other three passages. But this passage, standing alone, does not insinuate wicked children. So, being that the other three passages had not yet been told over, they had what to appreciate from this passage. This explanation teaches us a very special lesson in chinuch. Indeed, as we see in the הגדה, it is important to be aware of the outside influences to guard and protect our children from the negative influences and guide them along the proper path. However, when it comes to the appreciation we have of and for our children, it is not a time to be comparing to other children. Our children must be appreciated for who they are and we must show appreciation to השם for the gift of children regardless.