The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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

View Profile

Wednesday, September 26

The Weekly Shtikle - Sukkos

    As part of the requisite mitzvos pertaining to Sukkos, we are told (Vayikra 23:42) "You shall dwell in sukkos for a seven day period." It is interesting to note that the word sukkos is in plural. The first inclination would be that this because the nation as a whole will dwell in many sukkos. However, the adjacent mitzvah of the four species refers to the esrog and the lulav in singular form, despite the fact that the nation as a whole will be taking many of those. Why, then is the wording for the mitzvah of sukkah different?


    There is a big difference between the mitzvah of sukkah and that of lulav and esrog. The mitzvah to take a lulav and esrog is very personal and private in nature. This is epitomized by the fact that one must own their own four species and cannot fulfill the mitzvah with someone else's.


    The mitzvah of sukkah, by contrast, is one that naturally includes others. Everyone makes the sukkah their temporary dwelling, the place where they eat all of their meals. Some are unable to make their own. Families and individuals, whether they have their own sukkah or not, are almost certain to share this mitzvah with others, either by eating in their sukkah or inviting them eat in their own. You will be hard-pressed to find an individual who goes the entire sukkos only eating in one sukkah. Therefore, the mitzvah of sukkah is given in the plural because it is the intention that one should eat in many sukkos whereas the mitzvah of lulav and esrog can only be fulfilled with one set of the four species.


Have a good Yom Tov and good Shabbos.

Friday, September 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Yom Kippur

    One of the highlights of the Yom Kippur davening is the review of the Kohein Gadol's avodah in the Beis HaMikdash on Yom Kippur. We recite the text of each of the three confessions - the first two on the bull and the third on the goat before its sending away. The first confession is for the Kohein Gadol and his family. The second is for the Kohanim as a whole and the third is for all of the nation.
    What has puzzled me for some time now is a little nuance which separates the third confession from the other two. In first confession, the Kohein Gadol confesses for his own sins and the sins of his family. In the second he confesses his own sins once again, along with the sins of the other Kohanim. In the third, however, he confesses for the sins of the nation without mentioning his own as he did the previous two times. Why is the third confession different in this way?
    The only answer I could come up with is that the Kohein Gadol is the head of his own household as well as the spiritual head of all of the Kohanim and thus, has a certain degree of responsibility for the group as a whole. Since he is not considered to be the leader of B'nei Yisroel as a nation, it is not necessary for him to confess his sins in conjunction with theirs. Maybe something to discuss over kreplach.
Have a gemar chasimah tovah (or is it gemar chasimah tov? see )
Have a good Shabbos and a good Yom Tov.

Wednesday, September 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Rosh HaShanah

    We continue our discussion from Rosh Chodesh Elul on the themes behind the shofar. I assume that I'm not the only one, who more than once, while itching for the end of Mussaf on Rosh HaShanah, has read the Artscroll's explanation of the symbolism behind the 100 shofar blasts. The source is Eliyahu Ki Tov's Sefer HaToda'ah who explains that Devorah, in her song following the defeat of Sisera and his army, states (Shoefetim 5:28-30) that Sisera's mother whimpered and groaned while she awaited her sons return. She did so 101 times, according to the midrash. We sound the shofar "whimpers" 100 to express our opposition to the barbarism Sisera's mother supported but we fall short by one blast to show the smallest inking of sympathy for her pain.
    Surely, there must be more behind this connection. The mother's whimpers are not enough for us to base such a significant custom on this episode in Tanach. (I have always thought it ironic that the heroin of the story of Sisera's defeat was Yael who single-handedly killed the ruthless general. The Mishna (Rosh HaShanah 3:3) states that the shofar used on Rosh HaShanah is the straight horn of an ibex, a "yael." This observation is made slightly less significant by the fact that our custom is not in accordance with that mishnah.)
    The theme of Rosh HaShanah is accepting upon ourselves the yoke of HaShem's Kingship. We do this every day when we recite the Shema and declare that HaShem is One. The essence of a king is a single authoritative entity with no superior and no equal. Thus, recognizing HaShem's oneness is a crucial part of accepting His Dominion. To achieve that recognition, we must come to accept that the good and the bad, life and death (as in last week's parsha) all come from a single source. In the Torah, we are often confronted with seemingly contradictory messages - messages of kindness and compassion alongside messages of apparent cruelty and destruction. As well, on Rosh HaShanah, we often reflect upon the events that have transpired over the past year - the blessings and the good fortune, the tragedies and hardships. The challenge, again, is to realize that these are not conflicts but simply Divine decrees.
    The story of Sisera presents a very similar challenge (although not necessarily unique in Tanach.) We read about poor Sisera - all he wanted was a glass of water and what did he get? A glass of milk and a tent pole through his skull. And then we read about his poor, grieving mother. Yet we must be careful to keep our emotions in check, to realize that Sisera was a man of great cruelty and that his demise was the will of HaShem and an essential part of B'nei Yisroel's miraculous victory. With this, the story of Sisera's demise is more closely related not only to shofar, but to the general theme of Rosh HaShanah.
May you all have a Shanah Tovah uMesukah and a Kesiva vaChasimah Tovah.

Friday, September 7

The Weekly Shtikle - Nitzavim / Vayeilech

A hearty Weekly Shtikle Mazal Tov to my sister-in-law, Sara Yeres, on her Aliyah AND engagement to Avi Lifshitz, originally from Scarsdale, NY - both of which happened this week (in that order). Mazal Tov to the ganse mishpacha!

    In pasuk 31:8, Moshe gives Yehoshua words of encouragement upon his taking over of Moshe's position. The pasuk ends off, "lo sira velo seichas". In pasuk 1:21, Moshe commands B'nei Yisroel, with regards to their seemingly imminent conquer of Eretz Yisroel, "al tira ve'al teichas". The commands are almost exactly identical. The only difference is the exchange of the word "al" for the word "lo."

    Both the word "lo" and "al" may both be translated as "don't." However, there is a difference between the two. The word "al' has only one meaning. Alternatively, the word "lo" is slightly more flexible. It can take on the form of a command, as in "lo tirtzach," thou shall not murder. However, it can also take on the form of a promise or assurance. Perhaps the clearest example of this is when HaShem commands Moshe to prevent B'nei Yisroel from ascending the mountain to fight following the incident with the spies. Moshe is told to declare (1:42) "Lo sa'alu". The simple reading is clearly, "do not go up!" However, Rashi quotes from a Midrash, "Lo aliya tehe lachem, ela yeridah", it will not be an ascent for you, rather a descent i.e. you will not succeed. Here we see clearly that the word "lo" can mean both a command and a promise, even at the same time.

    Therefore, in our parsha, Yehoshua is not being commanded not to fear, but rather being promised that he will have nothing to fear. In Devarim, he is being told not to fear. Indeed, the expression in Devarim is said in the context of other commands. In our parsha, however, it is stated in the context of other promises.

Have a good Shabbos and kesivah vachasimah tovah. 

Eliezer Bulka