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Friday, March 30

The Weekly Shtikle - Tzav

    In this week's parsha, the Korban Todah is discussed. The Todah is brought as a thanks to HaShem for one of four reasons discussed by Chazal. The Todah consists of a sacrifice and 40 loaves of bread. Netzi"v, in Hemek Davar points out that even though the Todah is a Shelamim sacrifice whose prescribed time for eating is a day and a half, the Todah may only be eaten that night. This, in addition to the excessive bread requirement will make it impossible for the "ba'al hakorban" to consume everything on his own and thus he will have to make a party for all his friends wherein he will praise HaShem in public, in order that he not leave over any of the Korban after the night. This, suggests the Netziv, is the reason why the Torah commanded the bringing of the Todah in this fashion.

    With this concept, the Netziv (in Herchev Davar on the bottom of Hemek Davar) explains the pesukim from Tehillim that we recite in Hallel: "L'cha ezbach zevach toda, uv'shem HaShem ekra", L'cha ezbach refers to the korban (animal) which is referred to as a zevach Todah. Uv'shem HaShem ekra refers to the public thanks to HaShem that is given at the gathering of friends. "Nedarai laShem ashalem" refers to the korban and in "negda na l'chol amo", the word negda comes from the word lehagid, to tell, referring to the telling over of HaShem's praise that will take place at the gathering. Finally, "bechatzros beis HaShem, besochechi Yerushalayim" would at first glance seem to be contradictory for bechatzros etc. clearly refers to the boundaries of the Beis HaMikdash whereas besochechi Yerushalayim refers to the entire city. However, according to the Netziv's interpretation it is clear that bechatzros beis HaShem is referring to the korban which is brought within the courtyard of the Beis HaMikdash. The meal in which the bread is eaten, however, will broadcast HaShem's praise throughout all of Yerushalayim.

Have a good Shabbos.

Friday, March 23

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayikra

This past Wednesday, 2 Nissan, was the first Yahrtzeit for my Bubbie, o"h. This week's shtikle is dedicated in her memory and marks the end of one year of shtikles dedicated in memory my dear Zadie and Bubbie, HaRav Chaim Yaakov ben Yitzchak and Yehudis bas Reuven Pinchas.
    Unfortunately, I have more questions without answers. Part of this week's parsha deals with the many different flavours of Korban Minchah. First, as we are introduced to the concept of a Minchah in general, we are told (2:1) "veyatzakta aleha shemen, venasan aleha levonah. At the end of the perek, however, regarding the Minchas Bikurim, we are told (2:15) "venasata aleha shemen, vesamta aleha levonah." My two simple questions are as follows:
1) What is the essential difference between these terms - veyatzakta, vesamta, venasata?
2) Why do these terms change even when talking about the same substance?
    I am having difficulty making any frankincense of all this.
Have a good Shabbos.

Friday, March 16

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayakheil / Pekudei

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

    In the beginning of this week's parsha, the sum total of all the metals used for the Mishkon is given. The Ibn Ezra (38:24 ) and many other commentaries point out that the total of the gold is given without telling us what the gold was used for. But when the totals of the silver and copper are given, we are told exactly what they are used for.

    A number of answers are offered. Ramban answers that the silver and copper were used for parts made completely of silver and copper so their exact weights could be measured out in order to count how much was used. The gold, however, was often used to coat different utensils such as the Mizbe'ach or the Aron and thus it was not possible to weigh out the amount of gold used for each utensil.

    Netziv in Hemek Davar explains that the gold was used for the more holy parts of the Mishkon such as the covering of the Aron and the Menorah and it would not have been respectful to weigh these items on a scale and thus, none of the gold was weighed.

    Meshech Chachmah points out that while all the silver and copper that was used was already mentioned in Vayakhel, the making of the vestments of the Kohen Gadol were yet to be described and thus, the gold had not yet been finished so the Torah could not yet give a full account of its uses.

    R' Moshe Shternbuch explains in Ta'am VoDa'as that the Midrash Tanchuma tells us that the fools of the generation were accusing Moshe of taking some of the metals for himself and thus, Moshe gave a full account of all the totals. R' Shternbuch points out that the giver of gold obviously gave with more generosity than the giver of silver. Thus, the really generous givers were so pure-hearted that they didn't demand an account of where their money had gone. Those who gave only silver or copper, however, were more stingy and thus demanded to know where every last penny (for the copper givers, silver coin for the silver givers) went.


Have a good Shabbos.

Sunday, March 11

ועשה בצלאל

:מפי הרב יעקב משה קולפסקי, זצ"ל

ועשה בצלאל ואהליאב וכל איש חכם לב

The above פסוק seems to be recounting בצלאל's working on the Mishkan as the Targum, "ועבד", seems to indicate. However, מהרי"ל דיסקין points out that the pesukim that follow tell of Moshe's calling upon Bezalel and Ahaliav to do the work on the Mishkan. Surely, it is not possible that they did the work before they were called upon. He suggests that the Targum is an error and should rather reflect an imperative tense rather than a past tense. This pasuk should in fact be connected to the previous pesukim and are in fact a command that Bezalel and Ahaliav will work on the Mishkan. (According to Biblical grammar the word may be read either way.) The fact that this is the beginning of a perek should also be ignored as these are markings that were inserted by the Christians and thus, we are surely not bound by them whatsoever.

Because of this, שערי אהרן suggests that when doing שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום, one repeat the תרגום on this פסוק according to the מהרי"ל דיסקין's interpretation in order to cover one's bases.

The fascinating thing about this pshat, as R' Kulefsky tells over, is that when they told this to the חזון איש, he right away replied that it is in concurrence with רש"י מכות י"ב. ד"ה ורצח where he brings this very pasuk as an example of a command. The Rogotchover, in צפנת פענח also references that רש"י.

Friday, March 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Purim

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

    This Motzaei Shabbos, there will be a toal lunar eclipse visible to most of the world at some point in the night, depending on your location: An early start on "ad delo yada" might enable you to view three lunar eclipses! The gemara (Sukkah 29a) tells us that when there is an eclipse of the sun, it is a bad sign for the gentiles. When there is an eclipse of the moon, it is a bad omen for B'nei Yisroel because we follow the lunar calendar and they follow the solar calendar. (See for a more in-depth discussion of the halchic and hashakfic implications of the eclipse.)

    We cannot possibly know what the eclipse is a sign of. However, let us contemplate the very concept of a sign. We have discussed ( that while blessings may be bestowed upon us by HaShem in an instantaneous manner, the curses chase us and follow a more draw out timetable before, God forbid, catching up to us and overtaking us. This is the Divine design allowing for teshuvah to reverse the decree and cancel the curse. This is the purpose of the sign of bad things to come. Punishment is not meted out spontaneously. We are always given a chance to wake up and smell the roses.

    This theme is perfectly applicable to the story of Purim. The gemara (Megilla 12a) points out that the generation of the Purim story was in fact deserved of complete destruction as per Haman's intentions. Later (14a) R' Aba bar Kahana explains that the the handing over of the ring from Achashveirosh to Haman was more productive mussar resulting in greater teshuvah than the 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses in Jewish history. All of the rebukes and warnings in the world from those 55 exceptional leaders of B'nei Yisroel were not able to make enough of an impression to bring the nation to complete teshuvah. But when B'nei Yisroel observed the actual commencing of their destruction, it brought about unprecedented change. With the story of the Megilla and the simultaneous eclipse of the moon, we are reminded that HaShem graciously gives us signs and warnings in order to help us and allow us to do teshuvah. As we face our modern-day Hamans and threats of similar, if not greater, magnitude, we must be mindful of what HaShem is most probably trying to tell us.

Have a good Shabbos and Chag Purim Samei'ach!
Mishenichnas Adar marbim be'Simchah!
Eliezer Bulka


Eclipses in Halachah and Hashkafah

B'nei Yisroel are traditionally symbolized by the moon. The generations from Avraham are likened to the cycle of the moon. David and Shlomoh were the 14th and 15th generations from Avraham Avinu. It was during their reign that B'nei Yisroel was at its pinnacle. They conquered their enemies, stretched out their borders and built the Beis HaMikdash. This is just like the moon which is biggest on days 14 and 15. After Shlomoh, national stability began to deteriorate and B'nei Yisroel lost their splendour, just as the moon wanes after the 15th day.

There are many insights to be taken from this symbolism. The gemara (Rosh HaShanah 25a) quotes the pasuk (Tehillim 104:19) "Shemesh yada mevo'o," the sun knows its path. The gemara comments that the sun knows its path but the moon does not. The relative path of the sun as it changes from season to season is quite predictable and easy to figure out. The path of the moon, however, is erratic in nature and seems not to follow a specific pattern. We may understand this as analogous to the way in which the world is run. The nations of the world, traditionally symbolized by the sun, are governed, to a certain degree, by the laws of nature. There is a less focussed Divine Providence that guides their everyday events. This is akin to the predictable path of the sun. One need not look far to realize that B'nei Yisroel are governed in quite a different manner. The events of the holiday that just passed, the events of the holiday that approaches and the tragic situation we find ourselves in today are clear indications that there is nothing haphazard about the course of events that befall us. There are no patterns or laws of nature to rely on, just as the moon follows an unpredictable path.

The gemara (Sukkah 29a) tells us that when there is an eclipse of the sun, it is a bad sign for the gentiles. When there is an eclipse of the moon, it is a bad omen for B'nei Yisroel because we follow the lunar calendar and they follow the solar calendar. There is an intriguing insight that lies beneath the surface here as well. An eclipse of the moon happens when the moon moves into a position behind the earth such that the light of the sun cannot reach it. One might say that it is "the moon's fault" that it was eclipsed. This is the way we must view calamities that befall us. We must search within for the causes and realize that it is our own deeds that have brought them about.

An eclipse of the sun happens when the moon moves in front of the earth in such a way that it blocks the sun's light from reaching certain spots on the earth. Here, too, we see that it is path of the moon that has caused the eclipse. The sun and earth are insignificant players in a solar eclipse. The lesson learned from this gemara is that everything that happens in this world is, in some way, connected to B'nei Yisroel. Despite our relatively insignificant size, like that of the moon to the sun, the world was created us and continues to be governed according to our actions. This is not something to take advantage of but rather, a great responsibility that we must bear on our shoulders at all times.


Every month, the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh, the molad is announced in shul. This time refers to the birth of the new moon on which Rosh Chodesh is based. Astronomically, this is when the moon passes in front of the sun, thereby completing its monthly cycle. Although the time of the molad will often determine the exact day of Rosh Chodesh due to larger scale considerations, we use this figure to determine when we can recite Kiddush Levanah. Based on the gemara in Sanhedrin, we may only recite Kiddush Levanah when the moon is new, that is, when it is waxing. Knowing the midpoint between the two molados allows us to determine this exact time. Also, we do not begin to say Kiddush Levanah until three whole days after the molad, when the moon is big enough to see.

The period of time between molad and molad (synodic period) that we use for these calculations is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 and a third seconds. However, this is not an exact constant figure. This figure is just an average of all molados but that the time we have for the molad may be off by a couple of hours one way or the other. In general, we don't really know when it does differ and we just rely on the average synodic period for all relevant calculations. However, nature can sometimes tell us that our calculations are off - with an eclipse.

An eclipse of the moon happens when the moon is in a position behind the earth such that the sun's rays cannot reach it. Clearly, this can only happen at the exact middle of the month when the moon is exactly behind the earth with respect to the sun. An eclipse of the sun is when the moon moves directly in front of the sun, obstructing the view of the sun from earth. This will only happen at the exact beginning of the month when the moon is exactly between the earth and the sun.

The issue of eclipses is discussed in Beis Yosef and Darchei Moshe OC 426:3. The consensus there is that if an eclipse of the moon is witnessed, then Kiddush Levanah may no longer be recited, even if this is before the prescribed time for sof zman Kiddush Levanah, the halfway point between molados. A solar eclipse, however, is not so simple. Beis Yosef writes that a solar eclipse may not be used to determine the proper time after which one may not say Kiddush Levanah. However, there does not seem to be any discussion about beginning to say Kiddush Levanah. The reason I bring all of this up now is because today, there is supposed to be a solar eclipse which will peak a short time before 1:00pm. The time of the molad announced in the shuls comes out to 8:29pm EST tonight. There is a significant eight hour difference between the "average" molad and the true molad. Would one be allowed to recite Kiddush Levanah on Thursday night at 8 pm.? If we are required to go by the average molad, then one may not. However, if we are permitted to use the eclipse as the molad, then one may.

Another interesting issue: When Beis Din established Rosh Chodesh based on witnesses, would the witnessing of a solar eclipse be sufficient testimony to the birth of the new moon? I hope this is has not been to difficult to follow.

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh

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

    Considering the close proximity of Purim to Shabbos, I figured I'd revive an old shtikle from Tetzaveh, courtesty of R' Elie Wolf:

    As part of the process of producing the priestly vestements, pasuk 28:40 commands "Velivnei Aharon ta'ase kutanos", and for the sons of Aharon you shall make tunics. This can be interpreted in two ways - one tunic for each Kohein or many tunics for each Kohein. This is the subject of a dispute in the Yerushalmi Yoma (Perek 3 Halachah 6). Rabanan hold two tunics for each Kohen and R' Yose holds one tunic for each Kohein suffices.

    In the gemara in Megilla 7a Rav Yosef learns that when it says in Megillas Esther "matanos la'evyonim" it means 2 total matanos for 2 evyonim - only one for each poor person. Turei Even in Chagiga and Avnei Shoham in Megilla (same author) comment that this gemara goes like R' Yose in the Yerushalmi who holds one tunic for each Kohein. However, asks Mitzpe Eisan in Megilla, from Tosafos in Chagiga (3a) we see that the halachah in regards to the dipute in the Yerushalmi is like the Rabanan - two tunics for each Kohein. If Rav Yosef in Megilla is going only according to R' Yose then it is not in accordance with halachah.

    Mitzpe Eisan answers from Pri Chadash (Orach Chaim 694) who writes that if the pasuk had written "vela'evyonim matanos" then it would have implied two to each but now that it says it the other way around it only means one to each. Therefore, the rule is that if the subject is written before the object then it may imply that to these subjects you will give objects to each. That then is the subject of dispute in Yerushalmi where the pasuk in question is "Velivnei Aharon ta'ase kutanos", the subject coming before the object. However, with Matanos la'evyonim where the object comes first, it means that these objects shall be distributed amongst the following subjects and everyone will agree that it is one per person. [This also explains why the gemara in Yoma entertains the possibility that there were two lots on each goat in the Yom Kippur procedure because the pasuk is "al shnei haseirim goralos" the subject before the object.]

Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka