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Friday, February 29

The Weekly Shtikle - Vayakheil

    In this week's parsha, (35:30-35) Moshe Rabbeinu informs B'nei Yisroel that Betzalel will be in charge of overseeing the construction of the Mishkan. He states that HaShem has instilled in him a special spirit of wisdom and understanding. After explaining this wisdom in more detail, Moshe adds (35:34) "Ulhoros nasan belibo," and He has placed in his heart the ability to teach. It was not sufficient for Betzalel to be familiar with all the crafts necessary for the construction of Mishkon. He needed to be able to educate others so that they may participate as well.

    In examining this pasuk more thoroughly, there are two very important insights into education which may be extracted from this simple phrase. The first is that no wealth of knowledge ever guarantees the ability to teach. Betzalel was brought to the highest levels of knowledge and understanding but that was not enough. In addition to the wisdom vested in him by HaShem he also required a separate Divine inspiration for the ability to properly pass that knowledge on to his disciples. The art of teaching is a necessary wisdom unto itself. This point is made by the Ohr HaChayim and R' Moshe Shternbuch on this pasuk.

    This pasuk also teaches us that while other areas of wisdom are more focused on the brain, the essence of teaching comes from the heart. It is not even enough for one to spend day and night studying the art of teaching. No matter how much knowledge one is able to amass, without a "teaching heart" it just doesn't work. Therefore in addition to enriching Betzalel's intellect with the wisdom and knowledge to perform all the necessary tasks, HaShem instilled in him all the inspiration of the heart to enable to him to educate the rest of the nation.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (Application to Adar I subject to dispute)

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 22

The Weekly Shtikle - Parshas Ki Sisa

    Moshe Rabbeinu, in his defence of B'nei Yisroel, pleas with HaShem (32:13) to "remember Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov to whom You vowed by Your Self..." Rashi explains Moshe's plea. You did not swear to them by something that is perishable and impermanent, not by the heavens, not by the earth; not by the mountains and not by the hills, but by Your Self."

    Rashi to Devarim 32:1 explains that when Moshe Rabbeinu gave B'nei Yisroel their final discourse, the song of Ha'azinu, he made the heavens and the earth the witnesses for he will ultimately pass from this world but the heavens and the earth are everlasting. With these two Rashis presented beside each other, the difficulty is rather obvious. Here the heavens and earth are considered to be passing entities with no lasting life and suddenly, in Devarim, they become eternal.

    I found an answer in the Silberman Chumash. In Devarim, the heavens and earth are being compared to Man. They are surely more everlasting than Man. However, here they are being compared to HaShem, who is surely far more everlasting than the heavens and the earth.

    Perhaps another way to resolve this discrepancy is that the heavens and earth may very well be eternal, everlasting entities from a practical perspective. However, what Moshe is saying here is that their very existence is at the whim of HaShem's will. Although in all likelihood they will never cease to be, they very well could if HaShem so desired. And that lends a special significance to the fact that HaShem swore by His very Self to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.


I would still love to hear answers to these two questions:


It has been an astronomically stimulating week with the spectacular lunar eclipse on Wednesday night (which was clearly visible from here.) What better way to cap it off than to refer you to Ari Storch's essay on Ra'ah (which I meant to link to for parshas Bo but is once again applicable this week.)

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (Application to Adar I subject to dispute)

Eliezer Bulka

The Weekly Shtikle - Ki Sisa

Two questions:

Towards the beginning of the parsha, we are given the recipes for two important concoctions: the "shemen hamishchah," the anointing oil, and the "ketores," incense. Each is followed by a prohibtion against the rebroadcast, retransmission without the expressed written consent... (sorry, still in Purim mode.) But there is where we find an interesting discrepency. The prohibitoin against reproducing the shemen hamishchah (30:32-33) is regardless of purpose. That is, it appears that one has transgressed simply by remixing the ingredients in their exact proportions. With the ketores, however, although the prohibition (30:37) is stated in similar, genric terms, the punishment in the very next pasuk seems to apply only to someone who mixes the ingredients for the purpose of smelling it.
Additonally, in the case of the shemen hamishchah, there is a clear prohibition against the mundane use of that which was created for the proper purpose. There does not seem to be any similar prohibition against the burning of the incense for mundane purposes. Why these differences?
And a An old but unanswered one:
Rashi (34:32) goes through the process by which the Torah was taught to B'nei Yisroel. Moshe learned the Torah from HaShem. Aharon came in and Moshe taught it to Aharon after which Aharon sat at his left. Then his sons came in and learned from Moshe after which Elazar sat to the right and Isamar to the left, etc. The simple question is, where were Nadav and Avihu? It seems clear that this process is referring to events that took place right after Yom Kippur. If so, Nadav and Avihu were still alive and well and we know that they were tzaddikim. So where were they? And if this is talking about after their death in Nissan, then what is this pasuk doing here?

Have a good Shabbos.
Mishenichnas Adar marbim be'Simchah!

Friday, February 15

The Weekly Shtikle - Tetzaveh

This week's shtikle is dedicated to my sister-in-law, Sara Yeres, and her chosson, Avi Lifshitz, who will be getting married this Monday in Eretz Yisroel, IY"H. Mazal Tov to the entire mishpacha and may they be zochim to build a Bayis Ne'eman b'Yisrael!


Another Kiddush Levanah Advisory: It has been brought to my attention by a very observant reader that there is a lunar eclipse expected this coming Wednesday evening. If my calculations are correct, according to the luach, the last time for Kiddush Levanah is (theoretically) just before 8 am EST on Thursday morning. However, as discussed in a previous article, according to Beis Yosef and Darchei Moshe (OC 426:3), Kiddush Levanah may not be recited after the sighting of a lunar eclipse since that signifies the exact midpoint of the moon's orbit around the earth. Since mid-eclipse is scheduled for approximately 10:26 pm EST, Kiddush Levanah should probably not be recited after that time.


    Much of this week's parsha deals with the vestments that the Kohein Gadol and regular Kohein wore when they performed the service. Although their wardrobe seems to be discussed in its entirety, there is no mention of any tzitzis. It isn't completely clear which of the vestments actually had four corners. According to the Rambam, it seems that at least the me'il, worn by the Kohein Gadol, had four corners. Why then is there no mention of the Kohein Gadol putting tzitzis on the me'il?

    The gemara (Erchin 3b) mentions a number of mitzvos that apply equally to Kohanim, Levi'im and Yisraeilim and discusses them in depth. One such mitzvah is tzitzis. The gemara, as it does in the other instances as well, questions that it is obvious that everyone is obligated in the mitzvah of tzitzis. Why would one even have thought that a Kohein or Levi would be excluded? The gemara answers based on the juxtaposition of the mitzvos of sha'ateneiz and tzitzis (Devarim 22). The vestments of the Kohanim are exempt from the prohibition of sha'atneiz, the combination of wool and linen as the linen belt is placed tightly over the woolen tunic. One might have thought that since they are exempt from sha'atneiz, they are exempt from tzitzis as well. The gemara, therefore, needs to confirm that they are not, for they are only exempt from sha'atneiz while they are performing the service in their garments but not otherwise. Beis Yitzchak comments on this gemara that it seems that nevertheless, since the Kohanim are, in fact, exempt from sha'atneiz while they are performing the service, they are also exempt from tzitzis while they are performing the service. This would explain why tzitzis were not placed on the me'il.

    The Minchas Chinuch (Mitzvah 99, Siman 4) discusses this issue and rejects the notion that the exemption from tzitzis has to do with being worn while performing the service. Rather, he contends that the reason why tzitzis were not placed on the me'il is because we are taught in the gemara (Chulin 136a) that there is only an obligation of tzitzis on a garment that belongs to you. A borrowed garment, for instance, is not obligated to have tzitzis. The vestments of the Kohein Gadol were "hekdeish," consecrated, and did not belong to the Kohein Gadol himself. Therefore, he was not obligated to put tzitzis on them.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (Application to Adar I subject to dispute)

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 8

The Weekly Shtikle - Terumah

Kiddush Levanah Advisory: Although the source is somewhat shaky, the custom amongst most Ashkenazim is to wait at least 72 hours after the molad to recite Kiddush Levanah. The announced molad for Rosh Chodesh Adar I was 8:06 pm. It is once again important to make it clear that this is Yerushalayim time. Therefore, in the eastern time zone, the molad really occurred at 1:06 pm. While it will be nearly impossible to see the moon in Yerushalayim after the 72 hour period has elapsed, just about any community west of Eretz Yisroel should be able to recite Kiddush Levanah this Motzaei Shabbos.

    After detailing the structure of each component of the Mishkan, the Torah explains their arrangement. When dealing with the placement of the Shulchan and the Menorah, the pasuk says (26:35) "And you shall place the Shulchan outside of the curtain and the Menorah opposite the Shulchan, on the southern side of the Mishkan. And the Shulchan shall be placed on the northern side." This pasuk could easily have been condensed to only mention the Shulchan once. Why was the placement of the Shulchan mentioned before and after the placement of the Menorah?

    The Menorah traditionally represents Torah and spirituality while the Shulchan represents wealth and sustenance. The Sifsei Kohein bases his explanation on the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:17) "Im ein kemach, ein Torah. Im ein Torah, ein kemach." Without flour (sustenance), there can be no Torah and without Torah, there is no flour. The Shulchan was brought into the Mishkon first and placed in front of the curtain as a reflection of the first phrase, that there can be no Torah without sustenance first. However, its position on the northern side was not fixed until after the Menorah was placed in its spot on the southern side, this to reflect the second phrase, that without Torah there is no sustenance.

    Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, explained the Sifsei Kohein based on the GR"A's explanation of the Mishnah. When the Mishnah tells us that without sustenance there can be no Torah, it means that we need sustenance in order to achieve Torah. However, when the Mishnah says that without Torah, there is no sustenance, it means without Torah as the ultimate goal, the sustenance is futile and purposeless. That is why although the Shulchan is brought into the Mishkan first, it is only placed in position after the Menorah is first placed in its position, to show that in the end, the Torah must be the central focus with the sustenance only a means to that end.

    Netziv in Hemek Davar also deals with this issue and offers an alternate explanation. The Shulchan has, in fact, a two-tiered symbolism. On one level, it represents sustenance and blessing in so much as is needed for everyday livelihood. This is represented by the Lechem HaPanim, the bread that was placed on the Shulchan. The structure itself, however, represents wealth and majesty. It is for this reason that it is placed in the north. In order to facilitate the efficient emersion in Torah, one needs only achieve the first level of sufficient sustenance. The next level of wealth and majesty can only reached through the merit of Torah. Therefore, the Shulchan is brought into the Mishkan first but is put in its place after the Menorah and that is why the pasuk must mention it twice.

Have a good Shabbos. Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (Application to Adar I subject to dispute)

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, February 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Mishpatim

    At the beginning of this week's parsha, we are taught a number of different offences for which the punishment is death. Among them are the striking and cursing of one's parents. One would certainly have expected to find the two pesukim next to each other. However, surprisingly, after the pasuk dealing with the hitting of a parent (21:15) we are taught that one who kidnaps an individual and sells him is also subject to the death penalty. Only after that are we taught the punishment for cursing a parent.
    Ramban explains in the name of R' Sadiah Gaon that the placement of the pasuk dealing with kidnapping gives us an insight into the gravity of the crime and why it is punishable by death. Kidnapping victims are often younger children. When a young child is kidnapped he is taken from his family and forced to grow up away from the warmth of a loving family. He grows up not knowing his parents and thus is more likely to hit or curse them when he is older. This would have been a truly unfathomable act coming from a child who was the beneficiary of a full life of parental love and nurture. Since the kidnapper is responsible for creating this scenario, his act is punishable by death as well.
    Another approach offered by the Rishonim is that the pesukim are actually following a logical progression of increasing novelty, commonly referred to as "lo zu af zu." First, we are taught (21:14) that someone who plans and premeditates the murder of his fellow Jew is to be put to death. This is understandable. The next pasuk, dealing with hitting a parent, teaches us that it is not only murder that warrants the death penalty. One can even get capital punishment for merely hitting. Thedeath penalty for kidnapping then teaches us that one can be guilty of a capital offence without causing any physical harm whatsoever. Finally, we are taught that one can even be put to death for the improper use of his words in the form of a curse.
    Bechor Shor offers a fascinating take on the issue. When the kidnapper stands before the court and is accused of his crime, he is likely to curse his parents and blame them in order to vindicate himself. That is why the pasuk dealing with kidnapping is snuck in here to be juxtaposed to the pasuk dealing with cursing. (I am not sure why a kidnapper is more likely to do so than any other criminal.) This idea teaches a very poignant lesson which is most applicable in our time. We live in a society where crimes are very often justified by outside causes. When a heinous crime is committed, too often we get wrapped up in the perpetrator's background, his upbringing, what kind of music he listened to or what he watched on TV. What made him do this? The Torah teaches us - HE made him do this. Regardless of what influences might have played a part, one is always responsible for their own actions and must face the consequences thereof.
    It's been a while since I sent out this classic trivia question which R' Kulefsky, zt"l, used to love to ask: The law of "Edim Zomemin" states that a witness who attempted to make his friend pay a certain amount of money and is found to be lying and goes through the necessary process of "hazama" must pay the money himself. It is generally assumed that he pays the original defendant. But what is the source for this? Maybe it is a tax that he is required to pay Beis Din. [For a real challenge stop reading here.] Said R' Yisroel Salanter, the answer is in Rashi in this week's parsha. But you could go through the entire parsha and miss it. Happy hunting! .

Have a good Shabbos.