The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, April 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Shevi'i shel Pesach

    On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate the great miracles that HaShem performed at Yam Suf. Although the festival of Pesach in general seems more centered around the actual exodus which occurred six days prior, the splitting of the sea is the center of attention as Pesach draws to a close. As we relive this momentous time in our history, a few fundamental questions come to mind. How does Keriyas Yam Suf fit into the grand scheme of Yetzias Mitzrayim? Why was it necessary? Why couldn't B'nei Yisroel simply have left Mitzrayim, never to hear from those wretched Egyptians again?
    One thing seems relatively certain: B'nei Yisroel did not need the Egyptian army to be decimated in order for their freedom to be complete. It would seem, therefore, that the main purpose of  Keriyas Yam Suf was not as much the saving of the Jews as it was the destruction of the Egyptians. And surely there is a lesson we must take from it as well.
    To delve further into the matter, we need to rewind to the very beginning of Sefer Shemos. Rashi (1:10) explains the strategy behind Paroah's master plan. He was aware that HaShem had sworn never to bring destruction through water again. By orchestrating his semi-genocide through water, Paroah believed he was handcuffing the Almighty, so to speak, into being unable to exact revenge. This is a very extreme level of blasphemy - perhaps even worse than the denial of HaShem's existence - the recognition of HaShem and the assertion of some degree of inferiority.
    Perhaps the 10 plagues were a direct punishment for the enslavement and treatment of B'nei Yisroel. The crimes committed against man were accounted for. However, the crimes against God had heretofore gone unpunished. Keriyas Yam Suf and the subsequent demise of a significant contingent of the Egyptian nation therefore represents the Divine retribution meted out against the Egyptians coming full circle. At the same time, it teaches us a very valuable lesson. We are constantly given little hints as to HaShem's ways and how He runs the world. But we must realize that these are nothing more than hints and what lies beneath is a design far too complex for human understanding. We find a similar theme in the story of Purim  (see Megillah 11b regarding Belshatzar and Achashveirosh's erroneous calculations as to the supposed end of the Babylonian exile) and now we find it again in the story of Pesach. These lessons and ideas provide insight into how the events at Yam Suf fit into the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim and as well, our observance of the Chag of Pesach.
Have a good Shabbos and Chag Samei'ach!
Eliezer Bulka

Friday, April 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Acharei Mos / Seder Night

My apologies for the late shtikle, especially to the readers from Eretz Yisroel.
     This year we have the relatively anomalous occurrence of Erev Pesach falling out on Shabbos. Although this has been happening slightly more frequently of late, it will be another 13 years until it happens again. This can only happen on Parshas Tzav in a regular year or Acharei Mos on a leap year. As we have mentioned numerous times, the juxtaposition of the various weekly Torah readings and the different holidays of the year is no coincidence. Since Acharei Mos is one of only two parshios that can be read on Erev Pesach, surely there must be a correlation.
    I believe the connection is found towards the end of the parsha when the various illicit relations are discussed. The Torah could simply have stated "Do not do such-and-such." However, there is a very deliberate preface to the commandments: (18:3) "Do not do like the deeds of the land of Egypt where you dwelled, nor like the land of Cana'an where I am bringing you." One of the popular themes in the discussion of Yetzias Mitzrayim is why the subjugation was necessary in the first place. This pasuk gives us another insight into that topic. While it would be nice to be able to rely on positive enforcement but unfortunately, human nature does not lend itself to such methods being successful exclusively. Indeed, we find that the Torah mandates that various capital punishments be meted out publicly so as to serve as a deterrent for others. Unfortunately, it is natural for humans to require some negative reinforcement from time to time.
    In our experiences in Mitzrayim we find a very precise balance of both positive and negative encouragement. At the seder, we teach (Shemos 13:8) "Baavur zeh asah HaShem li be'tzeisi miMitzrayim." We were taken out of Mitzrayim on the merit of properly fulfilling the mitzvos of the Korban Pesach. At the same time, we observed the complete destruction of the ever-powerful Egyptian empire. This allowed us to understand their evil deeds and why they deserved to be destroyed. This, in turn, helps us to understand the gravity and seriousness of the mitzvos.
The usual installment for the Motzaei Shabbos seder:
    Aside from all the unique pre-Pesach adjustments that are necessary this year, there are some modifications to the Pesach night routine as well. At least according to some. At the end of the Maggid portion of the seder, we recite a brachah which begins with a show of gratitude for the exodus from Mitzrayim and ends with a prayer for the ultimate redemption. We pray that HaShem bring us to celebrate holidays, joyous in the building of His city, Yerushalayim, and exultant in His service, "venochal sham min hazevachim umin hapescahim," and there we shall eat from the sacrifices and the korban Pesach " The reason for this order, as documented by the commentaries, is that the word "zevachim" refers to the korban chagigah that was brought before Yom Tov. The chagigah was eaten before the korban Pesach because the korban Pesach was to be eaten on a full stomach. Therefore, we mention the zevachim first and then the pesachim.

    The Ba"ch and Ta"z (in their commentaries on the Tur and Shulchan Aruch respectively, end of 473) write that when the seder is on Motzaei Shabbos, the order is switched. The preparation of the korban Pesach supercedes Shabbos but the preparation of the chagigah does not. Therefore, the chagigah is not brought on Erev Pesach when it is Shabbos but rather on the first day of Yom Tov. Thus, we change the phrase to "min hapesachim umin hazevachim," as indicated in most haggados. R' Yechiel Michel Epstein, in Aruch HaShulchan, also indicates this change. However, support for this custom which lasted for many generations, seemed to have ended right there.

    The Aruch HaShulchan's own son, R' Baruch Epstein speaks out very strongly against this custom. In his sefer Mekor Baruch and his haggadah, he argues that since this prayer is referring to the year to come, there is no reason to flip the order this year. Rather, it would make more sense to do so on the year before a year when Pesach comes out on Motzaei Shabbos. He also points out that although the later commentaries do mention the switch, the practices and customs of the seder night are covered exhaustively in the mishnah, gemara and early commentaries such as Rambam and Kol Bo. And there is absolutely no mention of this custom whatsoever, not even in the Shulchan Aruch.

    The Sha'ar HaTziun (473:80) also references the Ta"z but quotes another source that argues with this custom based on the reasoning that we are saying it in the wrong year. It is not clear what the Sha'ar HaTziun's conclusion is on the matter but R' Dovid Feinstein, in his haggadah Kol Dodi infers that he does not hold of the switch and thus, he, too, writes that the order should not be reversed. R' Chayim Kunyevsky, in Orchos Rabbeinu, writes that the Chazon Ish did not reverse the order either. On the Chasidish side of the spectrum, the Satmer Rav, Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Minchas El'azar also write not to change the order. Despite previous endorsement of this custom, it seems the entire gamut of halachic authorities of the past century do not support it.

    The question remains, if this whole custom is a mistake, how did it come about? R' Baruch Epstein and R' Reuven Margolios write in their respective haggados that this whole custom came about due to a printing error. The source for the text of the brachah is mishnah 7:10 in Pesachim. There it reads "min hazevachim umin hapesachim." However, in the mishnah that appears in the gemara the order is switched. In some haggadah long ago there was a note on the side that indicated this difference. It was probably expressed in some acronym such as beis-mem- shin for "bemishnah shebatalmud..." Somewhere along the line it was misinterpreted to mean "bemotzaei Shabbos." Since there was theoretically a logical reason behind the change, it took off and spread from haggadah to haggadah and now it appears in most of the haggados out there.

Have a good Shabbos and a chag kasher ve'samei'ach!!

Eliezer Bulka


Friday, April 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Metzora

    In this week's parsha we are taught about the laws concerning tzora'as that is found on the walls of one's house. There is an intriguing difficulty found in pasuk 14:37, "Vera'a es hanega vehineh hanega b`kiros habayis sheka'aruros yerakrakos o adamdamos umar'eihen shafal min hakir." First, the nega is referred to in the singular. However, in the rest of the pasuk it is described in the plural.
    R' Kulefsky, zt"l, gives a fascinating, yet somewhat complicated answer in the name of R' Netta Grunblatt (of Memphis, Tennessee). We are taught in the gemara (Sanhedrin 71a) that the required size of the tzora'as on the house is the size of two beans whereas other "negaim" require only one bean. One may deliberate on the following point: Is it that the required size of "nig'ei batim" is twice that of other negaim or that "nig'ei batim" requires two negaim? The difference between the two is illustrated with the precise language used by the Rambam. He writes, in regular cases of tzora'as, that a nega smaller than a bean is "not a nega." However, in the laws of "nig'ei batim," he writes that if the spot is less than two beans, it is "tahor." The implication is that it is still considered a nega, but that it is tahor. [The halachic ramifications of this specification arise in connection with the gemara in Shabbos that states that the prohibition of cutting tzora'as out of one's skin applies even to a "nega tahor."]
    It seems from the Rambam that the proper interpretation would be the second one, that "nig'ei batim" require two nega'im of total size two beans. Therefore, if the spot is less than two beans, it is still a nega, only it is tahor. This, suggests R' Grunblatt, is the explanation for the change in the pasuk from singular to plural. In the beginning, we are referring to the spot as a whole. However, since in essence we are dealing with two negaim, the pasuk describes them in the plural.

Good Shabbos.
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah! (See Rashi, bottom of Taanis 29a)
Eliezer Bulka

Friday, April 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Tazria

    The beginning of this week's parsha contains many instances of the "mapik heh," indicating the female, third-person possessive. The proper pronunciation of these is more critical than usual as we find the word "taharah" both with and without. The absence of an expected "mapik heh" would certainly change the meaning. There is another such instance later on. In the discussions of the various laws of Tzara'as, there a number of references to hair. In 13:20, when the Kohein observes the white hair, the word "us'arah" has a "mapik heh" as expected, indicating that its hair turned white. However, earlier on, (13:4) in reference to hair that has not turned white, we find the very same word without a "mapik heh." Most chumashim go out of their way to call attention to this apparent anomaly.
    I had originally thought that this was simply another one of the many grammatical anomalies found in the Torah, such as the missing dageish in the sin of the last word of pasuk 10 in this very perek. However, I found a very logical explanation for this in Meshech Chachmah. In the later reference to the hair, rewinding to the beginning of the paragraph reveals that the subject is "basar," flesh. That is why "us'arah" is punctuated in the possessive form, because the hair emanates from the flesh. However, the subject of the earlier pasuk is "or," the skin. Although the hair appears to be coming from the skin, in truth, it comes from the flesh underneath it so the non-possessive form without the "mapik heh" is used.
Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!
Mishenichnas Adar Marbim beSimchah!
Eliezer Bulka