The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, June 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

This Sunday is the fourth Yahrzeit of my wife's grandmother, Mrs Shirley Yeres. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmasah, Chaya Sheindel bas Alexander.
This is also the week of the Yahrzeits of the first two Roshei Yeshivah of Ner Yisroel. This Shabbos will be the 20th Yahrzeit of R' Yaakov Yitzchack Ruderman, zt"l. Tuesday, Shiv'ah Asar B'Tamuz, is the Yahrzeit of R' Shmuel Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l. The shtikle is dedicate le'iluy nishmasam as well.
    When inquired as to the identity of his visitors, Bilam responds (22:10) "Balak ben Tzipor, the king of Moav sent them to me." Rashi delves into the motivation behind Bilam's statement. His intent was, "even though I am not dignified in your eyes, I am dignified in the eyes of kings." R' Ruderman points out that is a ridiculous statement for Bilam to make. Why should it matter one bit to HaShem what the kings think of Bilam? What could he possibly have intended to accomplish with this?

    The Rosh HaYeshivah answers that Bilam's intention was to incriminate Bnei Yisroel. His claim was as follows: "HaShem, you know that I am really not significant whatsoever. Nevertheless, I am significant in the eyes of kings. However, even though Moshe is held so highly in Your eyes, he is so gravely mistreated by Bnei Yisroel!" Therefore, when HaShem finally lets Bilam go along to Moav, he instructs Bilam "go with them, but only do that which I tell you to do". This is meant as a rebuttal of his charge against B'nei Yisroel. "The reason why you are revered by kings is because you tell them what they want to hear. Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel what I tell him to say. That is why his popularity is not always so high. Now you go to the kings and tell them what I tell you, and see how they treat you now." Sure enough, this proved to be quite a lesson for Bilam.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka
3306A Clarks Ln
Baltimore, MD 21215

Friday, June 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

    This week's parsha contains the unfortunate events of "Mei Merivah." The tragic outcome of that incident was that neither Moshe nor Aharon were allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel. Moshe's role is clear and it is understandable that he is punished. However, it is difficult to comprehend why Aharon is held responsible to the point that he received the very same punishment.
    I wasn't able to find too much discussion on this in the commentaries. Some suggest that Aharon should have objected to Moshe's hitting of the rock. However, HaShem commanded Moshe directly and it is unclear that Aharon even knew Moshe was doing something wrong.
    R' Moshe Shternbuch, in Ta'am VaDa'as states simply that Aharon was punished merely because he was together with Moshe. They worked as a team, and they went down as a team. It's not that there was any specific wrongdoing on his part - just his being there alongside Moshe is what included him in the punishment. With this, he explains a Midrash on the pasuk following Aharon's death. The pasuk states, (20:29) "And the congregation was fearful following Aharon's death (or because Aharon died.)" The Midrash explains that B'nei Yisroel were afraid that they, too, would meet the same demise as the generation of the spies who would all perish before entering Eretz Yisroel. R' Shternbuch explains that they observed Aharon taking the fall after Mei Merivah, even though he was not guilty of any crime. They were therefore afraid that even though they, themselves, were not responsible, nor technically involved in the sin of the spies, their mere presence at the time would be enoughto doom them to the same fate. Fortunately for them, this was not the case.

Friday, June 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

    The very next day after the very public demise of Korach and his entourage, "all the congregation of the children of Israel" once again complained about Moshe and Aharon, stating, (17:6) "You have killed the nation of HaShem!" The simple understanding of this declaration is a direct reference to the death of Korach, Dasan, Aviram and the 250 men.
    However, R' Kulefsky, zt"l, would often quote an alternate understanding of this complaint from R' Avraham ben haRambam. The gemara (Makkos 10a) states that if it should happen that a disciple would need to be exiled to an ir miklat for an inadvertent killing, his rebbe is exiled with him for the pasuk states (Devarim 4:42) "And he shall escape to one of these cities - and he shall live." The cities of refuge are meant to sustain the life of the killer and exiling him without his rebbe is tantamount to taking his life.
    So, B'nei Yisroel were not complaining about the death of the 250 men. Rather, they looked up to Korach as a rebbe and were bemoaning their own death. They felt that with Korach's death, a part of them died with him. Either way you understand it, it was a protest of which HaShem strongly disapproved.

Friday, June 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

    Towards the end of this week's parsha is the episode of the "mekosheish," the man who gathered trees on Shabbos and was thus subject to the death penalty. B'nei Yisroel did not know what was to be done with him at first so he was put in jail until the sentence was given by HaShem. After the Torah tells us that he was put in jail, there is a "samech" in between the pesukim (15:34- 35), after which the Moshe is told what to do with him. What puzzled me is that in the episode of the "mekaleil" at the end of parshas Emor, an episode which seems to be quite similar to that of the mekosheish, there is a "peh" between the pasuk telling us that they did not know what to do with him and the pasuk that begins the teaching of the sentence (Vayikra 24:12-13).

    A samech indicates a "parsha setumah," a closed paragraph, i.e. there is only a little space between the end of one paragraph and the beginning of the next. The peh indicates a "parsha pesuchah," an open paragraph, i.e. that the next paragraph begins on a new line. Perhaps the reasoning behind the difference between the two episodes lies in the gemara in Sanhedrin 78b. The gemara says that when the episode of the mekaleil took place, they did not know what the sentence was at all. However, the mekosheish they knew was subject to the death penalty from the pasuk "mechalaleha mos yumas," they just didn't know what form of the death penalty. Since their lack of knowledge was more limited in this case, perhaps that is why there is only a samech in between the pesukim to symbolize that they awaited only a short answer. But since they knew nothing of the mekaleil's sentence, a peh is placed between the two pesukim to symbolize that they awaited a longer answer.

    There are other instances in the Torah where the halachah was not known and an answer was awaited. For the halachos of Pesach Sheini (9:8-9) and as well, for b'nos Tzelafchad (27:5-6) there is a peh between pesukim. There we are taught that Moshe either did not know the halachah at all or forgot it completely (Sanhedrin 8a) so an entire halachah needed to be taught. This would seem to support the above approach.

Have a Good Shabbos.

Friday, June 1

The Weekly Shitkle - Beha'alosecha

    The Torah recounts that as B'nei Yisroel brought what would be their only Korban Pesach during their sojourn in the desert, there were individuals who were "temei meis" and thus unable to participate. There is a discussion in the gemara (Sukkah 25a) as to who in fact these individuals were. R' Yosei HaGelili suggests they were the ones in charge of transporting the body of Yoseif. Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that it was Misha'eil and Eltzaphan who were instructed to remove Nadav and Avihu's bodies from the mishkan. Finally, Rabbi Yitzchak discounts the first two opinions and posits that these were individuals who had become tamei as a result of a "meis mitzvah."
    It is somewhat intriguing that the approach taken in the gemara is that there was something special and unique about this group. Although, it is not unusual for a midrashic source to fill in the blanks in a pasuk, even if there is no compelling evidence that there is something missing. However, there is a question to be asked on the first two opinions. Why is it that R' Yosei and R' Akiva assume that these individuals were part of a single group, that they were all temei meis for the same reason? Could there not have been more than one cause for people to be tamei?
    The Torah's introduction to this story is as follows (9:6) "Vayehi anashim asher hayu temei'im lenefesh adam." One would have expected the pasuk to read "vayihyu anashim" in the plural. But instead, the singular "vayehi" is used in reference to a group of people. Perhaps R' Yosei and R' Akiva understand that the pasuk is specifically worded this way to convey that although there were a number of individuals were tamei, they were all tamei for the same reason.