The Weekly Shtikle Blog

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Friday, July 25

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos

 In the beginning of Perek 32, the tribes of Gad and Reuven come to Moshe and inform him that the land they had just captured from Sichon and Og is very good grazing land and that they have a lot of cattle. They then proceed to suggest that they inherit that land rather than inheriting land in Eretz Canaan. R' Chayim Kunyevsky points out something very intriguing which I'm sure very few would realize. Right before B'nei Gad and B'nei Reuven request the land but after they inform Moshe of its value, there is a "samech," denoting a minor pause. Why would there be a pause in the middle of their conversation? They were talking the whole time, the conversation never shifted.
 R' Chayim suggests as follows. The Yerushalmi in the first perek of Bikkurim says that one does bring bikkurim from the land of Gad and Reuven but they do not recite the viduy because it contains the phrase "ha'aretz asher nasata li", the land which You have given me, precluding a land which you took on your own as in the lands of Gad and Reuven. The half tribe of Menasheh on the other hand, even though they also reside on the other side of the Yarden, do say the viduy since they were not with Gad and Reuven in their request but the land was given to them without asking. R' Chayim suggests that Gad and Reuven were aware of this "future" halachah and therefore, they first informed Moshe of the value of the land and how it would be good for them and then they paused, hoping that Moshe would take the hint and offer the land to them so that they may recite the viduy when they bring bikkurim. After they realized that Moshe was not offering it, they had to ask for themselves.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Friday, July 18

The Weekly Shtikle - Pinechas

As we approach Shiv'ah Asar B'Tammuz, we commemorate the yahrtzeits of two of the Roshei HaYeshivah of Ner Yisroel - R' Yaakov Yitzchak (ben Yehudah Leib) Ruderman whose yahrtzeit was yesterday and R' Shmuel Yaakov (ben Yitzchok Mattisyahu) Weinberg whose yahrtzeit is this Sunday.
As well, today is the Yahrtzeit of my wife's grandmother, Chaya Shaindel bas Alexander, after whom our daughter, now one year old, is named. This week's shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas all of the above.
    We began sefer Bamidbar pointing out the recurring theme of leadership found throughout the sefer. Parshas Pinechas offers a number of insights into this theme. Moshe Rabbeinu's request for a successor touches on the need for appointed leadership. But in the beginning of the parsha, HaShem gives His stamp of approval to Pinechas' heroic act in putting an abrupt end to the plague that was devastating B'nei Yisroel. Here we find the importance of "civilian" leadership, a regular member of the community who stands up and stands out from the crowd - to "be a man where there are no men" - and become a hero.
    But while positive leadership plays a big role in the parsha, there is a fair share of negative leadership as well. First, the war against Midyan involved the specific targeting and elimination of Bil'am. Although his involvement with the Midyanites might not have been very obvious. But he was clearly identified as the man behind the evil plan and was thus singled out for "removal."
    There is yet another less obvious portion relating to negative leadership. As part of the census, when discussing the sons of Eliav (26:9), the Torah recounts the fate of Dasan and Aviram who rose up against Moshe and Aharon as part of Korach's campaign and were subsequently swallowed up by the earth while the sons of Korach did not perish. The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh, whose yahrtzeit, ironically, is today as well, is bothered by this passage. It does not seem to belong at all in a discussion involving the census, much less in the portion discussing the tribe of Reuvein. He suggests that this recounting of the Korach episode is meant to reveal the true masterminds behind the scheme as Dasan and Aviram, not Korach. Korach was a political pawn, a front man for Dasan and Aviram. Indeed, we find that when Moshe Rabbeinu attempts to make piece with the group, he sends messengers specifically to Dasan and Aviram, no Korach. He even goes so far as to suggest that the statement about Korach's children surviving is meant as a statement of Korach's merit.
    It is certainly of utmost importance to always have leaders whom we respect and revere. At the same time, however, it is often important to be able to identify the true sources of evil, the leaders and masterminds who lie at the root of the problems we face as a nation.
Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka

Friday, July 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Balak

    When the elders of Moav and Midyan came to bring Bil'am, the pasuk (22:7) says they brought "kesamim" with them. Rashi writes that the Midyanites went in with a plan as to how to determine Bil'am's legitimacy. They said, "If he comes with us this time, he is legitimate. If he tells us to delay, there is no purpose." Once he said "sleep here tonight," they saw that he had no hope and they left him. The GR"A points out the inconsistency in the terminology used by Rashi. It is observed in the Hebrew as Rashi changes terms from "Yeish bo MAMASH" to "Ein bo TO'ELES" to "Ein bo TIKVAH."
    The GR"A explains that Bil'am professed to be on a higher level of prophecy than Moshe. Although Moshe was above all other prophets in that he may speak to HaShem whenever he wished, Bil'am claimed to be even greater, in that he was "yodea da'as Elyon," that he didn't even have to speak to HaShem but that he already knew what He was "thinking," as it were. Therefore, the Midyanites reasoned, if he goes with us right away, it is indeed true that he is better than Moshe - yeish bo mamash - there is legitimacy to his claim. If he tells us to wait then that means he has to confer with HaShem. Although he might still be a great prophet, he is no better than Moshe so why should they side with Bil'am any more than Moshe. Therefore, there is no "purpose" (to'eles). When they saw that he required them to stay the night, they realized that he could only communicate with HaShem at night, which put him below Moshe on the prophecy scale. Then they saw that he had no hope (tikvah) and they were wasting their time so they left him.

Friday, July 4

The Weekly Shtikle - Chukas

    The beginning of Parshas Chukas deals with the mitzvah of the Parah Adumah, (which will not be referred to as the Red Cow or Heifer because it probably was not really red, but that's for another time.) Parah Adumah is well-known as the textbook "chok," mitzvah without reasoning. The Sefer HaChinuch writes that he will not give a reasoning for the mitzvah of Parah Adumah as he does for most of the other mitzvos for even Shlomo HaMelech could not find the reasoning for it. R' Yaakov Kaminetzky writes, in Emes L'Yaakov, that to give a reasoning for the miztvah would be against the very reasoning for the mitzvah itself. That is to say, that the point of Parah Adumah is that there is no reasoning.

    Rashi at the end of perek 19 parables the mitzvah of Parah Adumah, an atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf, to the child of a maidservant who had "soiled" himself in the palace of the king, that it is incumbent upon the mother of the child to come and clean up the mess. The Ramban and Kuzari write that the sin of the Golden Calf was not pure Avodah Zarah. B'nei Yisroel feared that Moshe had died and were afraid of losing their connection with HaShem and built the Golden Calf so that the Shechinah would rest on it. Nevertheless, it was Avodah Zarah. This was a sin of the intuition. They did not turn away from HaShem, per se, but rather, they devised new, foreign methods to receive His Presence. Afikei Yehudah writes that the meaning of Rashi's parable is that the "palace of the king" refers to the mind. By committing this sin of the intuition, B'nei Yisroel soiled the mind. The way to repent for this sin was to be given a mitzvah that cleans out the mind by keeping it out of the picture. A mitzvah which the mind cannot begin to understand is the perfect atonement for a sin for which the mind was responsible. (See also Rambam at the end of Hilchos Me'ila on the importance of refraining from trying to understand the mitzvos in one's mind.) 

Have a good Shabbos.
Eliezer Bulka