The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, June 27

The Weekly Shtikle - Korach

    There are some obvious connections between the parsha and the haftarah we read from (beginning at Shmuel I 11:14). As indicated in Divrei HaYamim, Shmuel was a direct descendant of Korach. Rashi at the beginning of the parsha points out that it was a vision that Korach had, that he would have offspring equal in stature to Moshe and Aharon, that drove him to his rebellion. Additionally, we find Shmuel delivering an address to the people in which he must make the following defensive assertion (12:3) " Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed?" This very closely parallels part of Moshe's prayer to HaShem in the midst of the Korach crisis (15:15) "I have not taken one donkey from them, neither have I hurt one of them."
    I believe there is something deeper in these correlations, an actual connection between them. Perhaps it may be suggested that the trials and tribulations that Shmuel endured during his reign as leader of the Jewish Nation were in some way a retribution or atonement for the similar treatment which his ancestor Korach put Moshe Rabbeinu through. A few points to ponder along this line of thought: As explained in "Ma SheHayah hu Sheyihyeh" on haftaros, Korach's claim was that the entire nation were on an equal level of holiness and thus, did not require a supreme leader. To counter this, as we read in our haftarah, Shmuel is tasked with anointing the very first king in our history.
    Another component of Korach's campaign was the opposition to the appointing of Aharon as the Kohein Gadol, although it is not clear that he necessarily opposed the concept of a Kohein Gadol itself. It is therefore fitting that Shmuel was raised under the tutelage of Eli, the Kohein Gadol and judge at the time.
    Although Korach's misguided revolution had quite a significant following, we are told later on (26:11) that his own children saw the errors of his ways and repented and were thus saved from meeting the same demise as their father. It is therefore quite interesting to note Shmuel HaNavi having the very opposite experience. Despite Shmuel's righteousness, we are told (Shmuel I 8:3) that his sons did not follow in his ways and when they were appointed to high judiciary positions were involved in bribery and perversion of justice. It was this unfortunate reality that led to the nation's request to abolish the system of judges as national leaders and to institute the monarchy as Shmuel did in our haftarah.

Friday, June 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Shelach

This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas R' Ephraim Eisenberg, zt"l, Ephraim Zalman ben Chayim HaLevi, whose Yahrtzeit was yesterday.

    Clearly, the most significant part of this week's parsha is the episode of the spies who were sent to Eretz Yisroel. As a result of their negative report, B'nei Yisroel were forced to postpone their entry into Eretz Yisroel for almost thirty nine years. Although the report of the ten spies was, on the whole, a negative one, the pesukim seem to show an apparent progression of the gravity of the spies' arguments.

    When the spies die a horrible death for their sins, the pasuk (14:37) reads, "vayamusu ha'anashim motzi'ei dibas ha'aretz ra'ah.." The men who had slandered the land died. The ten spies are labeled as "motzi'ei dibas ha'aretz ra'ah," slanderers of the land, and it would certainly seem, in context, that this is given as the very reason why they were punished this way.

    When the spies come back and deliver their report, they ague that despite the beauty and plenty of the land, they do not believe that they will be able to capture it. This point is disputed by Caleiv after which the spies go on further with their assessment of the land. It is right then, (13:32) that the Torah uses this catch phrase, or a conjugation thereof, "vayotziu dibas ha'aretz..." The Torah seems to bookmark this pasuk as the beginning of the slander. The spies go on to wantonly refer to the land as a "land that devours its inhabitants." This very specific structure seems to imply that until this point, the spies were engaged in a legitimate argument. They were welcome to present the facts of their mission and offer their analysis. Had they not gone any further, they would not have been deserving of their terrible plague. They crossed the line when they began to distort the truth, when they offered their own misguided assessments as fact. It was this specific deceitful tactic that transformed them from spies to slanderers.

Friday, June 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Beha'alosecha

    In this week's parsha we have the famous two pesukim (10:35-36) regarding the traveling and resting of the Aron. The two pesukim are encapsulated by the irregular upside down nuns, thus dividing sefer Bamidbar into two parts. The exact placement of this separation is quite significant. The divided parts of Bamidbar are rather opposite eras in B'nei Yisroel's sojourn in the midbar. Until this point, everything is proceeding beautifully. B'nei Yisroel are camped as a united nation at Har Sinai. They complete the building of the Mishkan and its consecration. Everything seems to be going fine. And then everything seems to go wrong. The rest of Bamidbar seems to be a drastic sequence of struggles that B'nei Yisroel face. Moshe seems constantly challenged with complaints. B'nei Yisroel are faced with the challenging episodes of the spies, Korach and Midyan. These two pesukim are the border between these two eras.

    The first challenge is that of the mis'onenim, the complainers. The Torah does not tell us what they were complaining about but the ensuing consequences are quite clear. The site of this disaster is named Tav'eirah, after the great consuming fire. R' Chayim Kunyevsky notes that in parshas Mas'ei, when all the checkpoints that B'nei Yisroel passed through are enumerated, there is no mention of Tav'eirah.

    Ramban (11:3) posits that B'nei Yisroel did not move from there before the next challenge after which that very same place was renamed Kivros HaTa'avah which is mentioned as the first stop after Har Sinai (33:16). However, R' Chayim dismisses this suggestion based on the pasuk in parshas Eikev (Devarim 9:22) which seems to clearly refer to Tav'eirah and Kivros HaTa'avah as separate places. R' Chayim quotes from his son that the list of checkpoints in parshas Mas'ei is only a list of locations where B'nei Yisroel camped and rested. While the Torah does not tell us directly what the mis'onenim complained about, Rashi does offer some insight into the matter. He writes (11:1) that B'nei Yisroel were complaining about the discomfort of having traveled three consecutive days without resting. It therefore seems that this place was not a place where they rested at all. They were certainly traveling until the tragedy occurred and seemingly picked up and continued immediately afterward as well. Therefore, it is not listed in parshas Mas'ei.

Have a good Shabbos

Friday, June 6

The Weekly Shtikle - Naso

    There are a number of interesting correlations between this week's parshah and this week's haftarah. The obvious connection is that the Haftara speaks of Shimshon who was a nazir and the nazir is discussed in this week's parsha. However, there are some other connections that lie beneath the surface. Firstly, the Sotah process is discussed in this week's parsha. We are taught, (according to one opinion in the gemara) that a Sotah who was previously childless, will become pregnant if she comes out of the Sotah process alive. R' Dovid Kohn explains why this is. If someone is childless, it is because there has been some decree from Shomayim that this person suffer, for whatever reason, a punishment comparable to death. As Chazal teach us, one who has no children is like they are dead. However, there are other things that are comparable to death. One of them is embarrassment. If someone embarrasses another person, it is as if they are killing them (Pirkei Avos). Therefore, when the woman goes through the Sotah process, she endures so much embarrassment that she has served the punishment equaling death and now there is no place for the decree of infertility anymore. This concept, too, is seen in the haftara. The Midrash recounts that Ivtzan (Boaz) who was the Shofet at the time, had 30 sons and 30 daughters and made two banquets for each one. However, he did not invite Manoach to any of these banquets for he reasoned "He doesn't have any kids, how could he ever pay me back." R' Dovid Kohn suggests that here too it was enduring the embarrassment of 120 banquets to which he was not invited, an embarrassment directly related to the fact that he was childless, that earned him the zchus to have a child.

    Also, Chazal tell us that the purpose of the Sotah process is to eventually instill peace between man and his wife by resolving the existing conflict. Peace is so important that HaShem has his name erased in the water for it. In the Haftara we also see the importance of peace between a man and his wife. The Midrash recounts that when Manoach and his wife were not able to have children, they were fighting over whose fault it was that they were not having kids. Therefore, the angel informed Manoach's wife that she was in fact the "akara". R' Chaim Kunyevsky writes that from here we learn a very important lesson regarding Shalom, that if you know that one party in argument is correct, it is proper to go over to the one who is wrong and inform them so that they may confess for in that way you will preserve peace. If you inform the one who was correct, you will not resolve the argument and the conflict will only continue. That is why the malach went directly to Manoach's wife rather than Manoach. (See Midrash Rabba on "Veyasem lecha Shalom")

Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka