The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, September 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Haazinu

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

    In the beginning of this week's parsha in the song of Ha'azinu, HaShem is praised (32:4) as "Keil emunah v'ein avel," a God of trust with whom there is no wrongdoing. R' Eilyahu Lopian asks, in Lev Eliyahu, what should be an obvious question. What kind of praise is this? If we were to praise a dignified individual, would it be fitting to say that he was "not bad?" What is the meaning of this praise?

    He answers that when a court of humans pronounces a judgement upon an individual, it may be what he himself deserves. However, it is possible that this judgement could be a wrongdoing for others. It is possible that this judgement could affect someone else in an adverse way which he does not deserve. This man's friends and family may be righteous individuals who don't deserve to have to suffer through the hardship of this verdict. Nevertheless, the judgement must be made. However, when HaShem passes judgement on an individual, He takes into account how it will affect everyone around him. Someone who is deserving of a certain punishment may actually be saved from it due to the effect it will have on an undeserving friend or relative. It is for this reason that it is said that one who wants to merit a good judgement should make himself needed to the public. The saying goes, "Ish haklal, nidon kiklal," a man of the community is judged as a whole community. Thus, with HaShem's judgement there is no wrongdoing - not for the judged one, and not for anyone else to whom he is close.

    With this concept he explains the gemara (Rosh HaShanah 18) in reference to the mishnah which states that all of us pass in front of HaShem on Rosh HaShanah like a herd of sheep, in a single file line. Rabba bar bar Chanah states "vechulam niskarim biskirah achas," all are marked with one marking. The marking of the sheep symbolizes the passing of judgement, but it is one long marking that marks all of us. With every one person's judgement, the effect on the rest of the community is considered.

Have a good Shabbos and Gemar Chasimah Tovah!

Eliezer Bulka

Thursday, September 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

    Following each instance of shofar blowing during the repetition of mussaf, and even on Shabbos when we do not blow the shofar, we recite a small paragraph declaring the gravity and importance of the day and including a short prayer as well. This paragraph begins with the words, "Hayom haras olam," today is the [anniversary of the] conception of the world. This is an accordance with R' Eliezer in the gemara (Rosh HaShanah) who asserts that the world was created in Tishrei. More precisely, he contends that the first five days of creation were before Tishrei and the sixth day of creation, the day that man was created was the day we know of as Rosh HaShanah.
    There are two points I found puzzling about this opening phrase. First, the world includes all of the creations from the first day and on. Why would this day be referred to as the conception of the world? Perhaps the conception of humanity or of civilization would be more precise.
    Second, the step in the circle of life one would probably associate with something new is birth. Why is this day referred to as the "conception" of the world rather than its birth?
    I thought this would be a nice subject to discuss at the table over apples and honey but I have come up with some suggestions of my own. First, it should be noted that Abudarham actually addresses both these points. He answers the first problem by stating simply that the sixth day was the completion of the conception of the world. It was not a world until it was complete. He avoids the second problem by stating that the word "haras" can refer to birth as well as conception and quotes a pasuk in Iyov (3:2) to support that assertion.
    Here are my thoughts:
    Perhaps, when it comes to life as we know it, birth is the ultimate beginning whereas the gestation period is simply the preamble and preparation for that event. As a metaphor for creation, however, conception is certainly the pinnacle. The miraculous creative spark is conception whereas birth is simply a necessary step in the development of the human being. It is therefore more accurate to refer to the creation of the world as conception rather than birth.
    Additionally, we might regard the metaphoric gestational period as corresponding to a certain block of time at the beginning of history. Perhaps Adam and Chavah's brief stay in Gan Eiden was humanity's incubation period, a time of unparalleled closeness between man and God. Following this short period, man was expelled as a fetus is expelled from its mother's womb, and forced to live the gruelling life in this world as we know it.
    The difficulty with this understanding, of course, is that getting booted out of Gan Eiden was not in the plans. It's hard to imagine a master plan for creation including Adam's sin and subsequent eviction. Perhaps the gestational period was the 2448 years that led up to the giving of the Torah and the "birth" of B'nei Yisroel as a nation, an event which we are told by Rashi on the very first pasuk of the Torah was the very purpose of creation. The experiences of our forefathers shaped us as as a nation forever. On Rosh HaShanah, thousands of years ago, was when it all began.
Have a Good Shabbos, Good Yom Tov and a Kesivah Vachasimah Tovah.
Eliezer Bulka
3306A Clarks Ln
Baltimore, MD 21215

Friday, September 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Savo

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.

    The bulk of this week's parsha is taken up by the "tochacha," literally the rebuke, in which we are warned of the terrible consequences of not heeding HaShem's word. The tochacha is preceded by a shorter, yet significant list of blessings that are bestowed upon us when we do perform the will of HaShem. There is a phraseology that is expressed almost identically in both the blessings and the curses. With regards to the blessings, it is written (28:2), "Uva'u alecha kol haberachos ha'eileh vehisigucha," and these blessings will come upon you and overtake you. Regarding the curses, it is written (28:45), "Uva'u alecha kol hakelalos ha'eileh urdafucha vehisigucha," and these curses will come upon you and chase you, and overtake you.

    Although these pesukim seem extremely similar, R' Chayim Kunyevsky, in Ta'ama D'kra, notes that when speaking of the blessings, "vehisigucha" is written without a vuv. However, when speaking of the curses, it is written with a vuv. He offers a fascinating interpretation of this discrepancy.

    In Parshas Naso (Bemidbar 6:23) the Kohanim are instructed as to how to bless the nation. The Torah commands "amor lahem," say unto them. Rashi points out that although the word "amor" could conceivably have been written without a "vuv," aleph-mem-reish, here it is specifically written with a vuv. The Midrash (Bemidbar Rabbah 11:4) learns from this that the Kohanim must not bless the nation hurriedly but rather carefully, intently and wholeheartedly. R' Chayim extrapolates from here that in general, a word written in its shortened form denotes hurry, whereas if it is written completely, it denotes a lack thereof. The meaning here is that the blessings will come swiftly and rapidly. The curses, however, if they must come, will come slowly and gradually. An example of this is the slow progression with which tzora'as inflicts a person, rather than inflicting his body, clothes and house all at once. The purpose of this is to give a person the opportunity to react early and repent before the punishments grow and overtake them.

    This theme may also explain the appearance of the word "urdafucha," and they shall chase you, regarding the curses but not regarding the blessings. This refers to the "chasing" period when the retribution is only starting out gradually. At this point, the person is being chased to repent. It is only when he does not answer this call that the curses will overtake him.

    This theme is quite pertinent to the month of Elul, in which this parsha always falls out. We are always given a window of opportunity, even an encouraging push, to repent for our sins before being punished fully. The month of Elul is prescribed for repentance and mending of ways so that we may achieve favourable judgement for the coming year.

Have a good Shabbos

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, September 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Seitzei

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.
    A sefer was recently released by the name of "Olelos Ephraim." It is a collection of insights on the parsha and other areas of Torah from HaRav Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l after whom my son is named. This is the installment for this week's parsha:
    The Torah teaches (24:5) that a newlywed shall not go out for army service in anyway. Rather, the pasuk says "naki yihyeh leveso," he shall be freefor his home for one year.  The word naki literally means clean. Ba'al HaTurim on this pasuk comments that the use of the term naki is hinting to that which we learn in the Yerushalmi (Bikurim 3:3) that when a man gets married, he is forgive for all of his sins.
    What is the meaning of this, asks R' Ephraim? Why would marriage automatically grant one forgiveness for his sins. Surely marriage isn't some sort of "get out of jail free" card.
    The Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 29:4) comments on the pasuk in Tehillim (81:4) "Tik'u bachodesh shofar," in this month your deeds and ways will be renewed through the blowing of the shofar. (The word chodesh for month literally means renewal.) The message behind this midrash is that a new start is an essential component of the teshuvah that is the central theme of Rosh HaShanah and the days that follow. It would not have sufficed to give us a day of judgement and period of repentance in the middle of the year. Sometimes, inertia can be a significant obstacle to teshuvah. It's simply too hard to change because that's the way you've always been. The new year gives us a chance to feel as though we are starting completely fresh with a clean slate. The new start is thus part and parcel of the teshuvah itself. (See also for an application of this concept to Rosh Chodesh as well.)
    When a couple gets married, they are essentially starting a brand new life together as husband and wife. It's more than a Rosh HaShanah, it's a complete rebirth of sorts. With this new life, all the sins of their previous life are forgiven.
    See for a discussion on the possibility that one should have in mind to be yotzei the mitzvah of Zachor with this week's reading.
Have a good Shabbos.