The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

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Friday, February 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

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

The story goes that R' Chaim of Volzhin had trouble understanding a certain passage of Zohar and appeared before his Rebbe, R Eliyahu of Vilna (GR"A) and asked him to explain it to him. The GR"A then proceeded to give him the following pshat on a pasuk in this week's parsha. The pasuk (25:11) tells us that the Ark be made of wood and be coated inside and out "mibayis umichutz" with gold. Rashi explains from the Yerushalmi in Shekalim that Bezalel made three arks, two of gold and one of wood. He put the wooden ark in the larger gold one and then the smaller gold one inside the wood one and then coated the top of it. If such was the order, asks the GR"A, then why does the pasuk say "mibayis umichutz"? It should say "michutz umibayis" because the Ark was coated first on the outside and then on the inside. He answers that "mibayis umichutz" is not referring to the wood but rather to the gold. This to say that the larger golden ark coated the wood "with its inside" and the smaller golden ark coated the wood "with its outside". So instead of the pasuk telling us to coat the wood on its inside and its outside, it is in fact saying to coat the wood with the inside of the gold and with the outside of the gold.

And why did the Torah go out of its way to explain this process in such a strange manner? The GR"A explained that it was to express the following symbolism. (This is where it gets deep) The wood refers to man as the pasuk says (20:19) "Ki haAdam etz hasade" and the two coatings of gold refer to the two portions of Torah that must evelop man, the "nigle" and the "nistar". Torah is compared to gold in Tehillim (19:11) "hanechemadim mizahav". The Torah is telling us that as far as the chelek hanigle, represented by the outer coating of gold, is concerned, one has the ability to reach the deepest depths of this chelek haTorah. This is demonstrated by the fact that it is the inside of the gold that coats the wood. But in the chelek hanistar, symbolized by the inner gold, one may only reach the surface and may not be able to reach the full depth of the chelek hanistar, as it is only the outside of this layer of gold that coats the wood. Following this explanation, the GR"A would not explain that particular passage in Zohar to R' Chaim.

My question is, though, that in the Yerushalmi, at least the one I looked at, the order is actually the other way around that the inner layer of gold was first placed in the wooden ark and then they were placed in the larger layer of gold. According to this, the order of the pasuk is fine the way it is. Perhaps Rashi had a different "girsa" in the Yerushalmi for in Yoma 72b Rashi explains this process in the same way he does here in Parshas Terumah.

Tuesday, February 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishenichnas Adar

Today, 2 Adar, is the first Yahrtzeit of my Zadie, R' Yaakov Bulka. This special edition of the Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmaso, Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak.
    In the first mishnah of the fourth perek of Maseches Taanis, we are told that with the onset of the month of Av - "mema'atin b'simcha," we decrease our indulgence in happiness. This is as actually the only "mishenichnas" found in the mishnah. Only later, in the gemara (29a), are we told by Rav Yehudah, the son of Rav Shmuel bar Sheilas in the name of Rav, that just as when Av arrives, we decrease our simchah, when Adar comes, we increase it.
    My Zadie, o"h, points out that the gemara is clearly equating these two customs on some level. And if we examine the laws pertaining to the days leading up to Tish'ah B'Av, they resemble not a decrease in outward expressions of happiness, but more of a total absence of happiness altogether. We even refrain from drinking wine so as to prevent us from inadverdently becoming happy. But if so, this must be paralleled in Adar! Just as the "mema'atin b'simchah" of Av is a complete and utter reduction of simchah, the "marbin b'simchah" of Adar must be a complete and utter invasion of simchah. It is not enough to simply bump the level of happiness up a notch during this time. We must allow happiness to completely envelop us. We must strive for 100% simchah!*
    At first, it would seem that this would make it all the more difficult that the Yahrtzeit falls out at the very beginning of Adar. But in truth, it allows us to focus on one of the many virtues of my Zadie. A mere chance encounter was enough for a perfect stranger to experience my Zadie's simchah - his radiant smile and genuine love for everyone. For us, his family, our experience was on an even higher level. Simchah was not an abstract concept - it was a way of life. And when we were able to grab a piece of that simchah, whether it was by telling over a nice shtikle, or swinging back and forth holding on to his arms, it left its mark on us as well. At this solemn moment which comes in the middle of such a happy time, we are able to reconcile these seemingly conflicting feelings.
Chodesh Tov. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim b'SImchah!
Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka
* This might be in sligh contadiction with Tosafos (Megilla 5a) who point out that the reduction is not complete even on Tish'ah B'Av itself as engagement is still permitted. Nevertheless, ein meishivin al hadrush!

Friday, February 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpotim

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

    Among the plethora of commandments in this week's parsha (53 to be exact), we are told (23:13) "You shall not mention the names of other gods, they shall not be heard on your mouth." This prohibition is expounded upon in the gemara (Sanhedrin 63b). It is forbidden to say to someone "wait for me beside such-and-such idol." The only exception to this prohibition, as explained in the gemara, is an Avodah Zarah that is mentioned in Tanach. Therefore, there is no prohibition against saying the name "Ba'al Pe'or," for example.

    Hagaos Maimonios (to Rambam Hilchos Avodah Zarah 5:3) writes that this prohibition is also limited to a name used to honour the Avodah Zarah. But a common name of something or someone which was made into an Avodah Zarah is not subject to this prohibition. Thus, if a group of people started worshipping some guy named Joe, there would be no prohibition to refer to Joe. This nuance may be relevant to the possible prohibition against reciting the name of the one that most of the Modern World considers, mistakenly, to be the Messiah. It is not known where his name, the one that begins with the letter J, originated from. It may be an anglicized version of the name used to refer to him in the gemara, Yeishu, an acronym standing for "Yimach Shemo Vezichro," may his name and memory be erased. However, some believe it to be an anglicized version of the word "Yeshuah," salvation, for obvious misguided reasons. Nevertheless, if this is a name used to refer to the person, it is possible that it would not fall under this category. The two- word name that is used to refer to him, JC, however, is certainly prohibited for the second word means Messiah and this is certainly a name used in his honour.

    What bothered me, however, is that it seems that many people, based on the aforementioned gemara, specifically abstain from using a church as landmark when giving directions. At first glance, this might seem to be the case discussed in the gemara. However, a more careful analysis of the gemara, and the pesukim involved, show that the prohibition is to say the actual name of an Avodah Zarah. The word "church," on its own, is not the name of an Avodah Zarah and the prohibition should not apply to this word. I heard, however, that Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l, concurred with this very point but added that it seems that Jews have customarily accepted upon themselves to be extra stringent in this matter and that is why the are careful to avoid using a church as a landmark.

Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim be'Simchah!

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 9

The Weekly Shtikle - Yisro

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.
    As Matan Torah approaches, HaShem ensures Moshe (19:9) that with this great event, B'nei Yisroel "will believe in you forever." The difficulty with this promise is that we have already seen that with the splitting of the sea (14:31) "they believed in HaShem and in Moshe his servant." Why does Moshe need to be assured once again of B'nei Yisroel's trust?
    Ramban here and Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 8) explain along similar lines that the mere witnessing of great miracles still did not accomplish complete belief in Moshe's prophecy for there was still room to suspect witchcraft of some sort. They had never actually witnessed the actual procedure of prophecy. The events at Har Sinai showed not only Moshe heeding HaShem's word but HaShem actually commanding Moshe directly, to which all of B'nei Yisroel were witness. Now there was certainly no room for any doubt whatsoever in the authenticity of Moshe's prophecy.
    One of the most prevalent proofs offered by common kiruv organizations as to the authenticity of Judaism over other religions is based on these events. For the most part, each religion has a figure who claimed to have been in contact with God. Their religion is based largely on these prophecies. The Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel, HaRav Yaakov Weinberg zt"l offered a famous joke found in an old Hebrew joke book as a parable to prove the futility of this belief:
    A certain Rabbi passed away and left two sons who argued over which was to be their father's successor. One day one of the sons gathered all the elders of the community and proclaimed that his father had come to him an a dream and told him that he wants him to be his successor. The elders, rather impressed by this revelation, were just about to appoint him rabbi when one man objected from the back, "Excuse me, but if your father really wanted us to appoint you rabbi, then he would have come to US in OUR dream!"
    All the other religions choose to believe in the prophecy of one man. But why? So-and-so says he spoke to God. Why should you believe him? Only the Jews are different. Every single Jew stood at the foot of Har Sinai and witnessed HaShem talking to Moshe with their very own eyes and ears. This is a level of belief that is irrefutable. Also, due to its foundation upon nationwide testimony, it is a claim that could not possibly be fabricated. That explains why none of the other religions have ever dared make such a claim.
    With this we can understand that the promise given here to Moshe was not about whether or not B'nei Yisroel believed in his prophecy. This was already established earlier. Rather it was a promise of the longevity and perseverance of this belief. A prophet who performs miracles may convince his generation to believe in him, but who will believe it in the generations to come? With the awesome events at Har Sinai, the believe in Moshe Rabbeinu's supreme prophecy became one that is sure to be everlasting and could never be challenged.
Have a good Shabbos.
There were some interesting topics discussed this week on the new blog "The Dikdukian." Please check it out at the link below.
Eliezer Bulka

Thursday, February 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Beshalach

I am very excited to announce a new project on which I have recently embarked - a new blog called The Dikdukian. The purpose of this blog is to serve as a general forum for discussing various dikduk topics and issues and specifically focussed on bringing attention to potential mistakes that might be made in the weekly laining. Please partake: .
The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.
    As the Egyptians realized they were doomed when their chariots began to collapse in the middle of Yam Suf, they proclaimed (14:25) "Let us flee from the Israelites for HaShem is fighting for them in Egypt!" At least, this is the simple literal understanding of what they said. But the last phrase is very puzzling. They were not in Egypt. HaShem wasn't fighting their battle in Egypt. Rashi starts by interpreting the word "beMitzrayim" as really meaning "baMitzriyim," not in Egypt but with the Egyptians. That solves the problem rather simply.
    He then brings another, less direct approach from the Mechilta. Just as those who in the sea were being smitten, so too those who remained in Egypt were being simultaneously smitten.
    However, Targum Onkelos offers a novel interpretation of this pasuk. He writes that the Egyptians were declaring that this was the same Strong Hand of God that fought B'nei Yisroel's battles in Egypt. A polytheistic belief system, such as that to which the Egyptians subscribed, is forced to give boundaries to their deities by some sort of criteria such as location, time or specific strength. As much as the Egyptians recognized HaShem's Hand in the meting out of the ten plagues, they still did not appreciate our monotheistic beliefs. It would seem from this pasuk that they believed that HaShem's powers were somehow confined to Egypt. They chased B'nei Yisroel with the belief that His Mighty Hand would not reach them outside of those boundaries. When they witnessed the miraculous collapse of their chariots, they finally began to realize their error. They recognized that the God who brought their nation to its knees knows no boundaries and was now bringing them to their ultimate demise.
Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka